By David Steiner
An education system without an effective instructional core is like a car without a working engine: It can’t fulfill its function. No matter how much energy and money we spend working on systemic issues – school choice, funding, assessments, accountability, and the like – not one of these policies educates children. That is done only through curriculum and teachers: the material we teach and how effectively we teach it.
Education reformers have grasped the importance of one-half of this core: teacher quality. Indeed, one of the most contentious education reforms of the last decade was the effort, spearheaded in the federal Race to the Top initiative, to create accountability around teachers’ performance. More recently, federal initiatives and major foundations have begun to focus on the caliber of teacher preparation, with states such as Delaware and Louisiana taking the lead in evaluating the quality of schools of education. At the same time, we have seen the multiplication of clinical residency programs across the country, a strategy based on the medical model of training doctors.