A new study performed by the National Center on Education and the Economy has taken a closer look at teacher professional development in three countries that maintain a standard of excellence in education outcomes — Shanghai, Singapore, and British Columbia. Findings suggest that all three of these countries expect advancement in the careers of their teachers, and interaction between such professionals is encouraged in order to obtain such advancement.
While such a culture doesn't exist throughout the United States, experts continue to argue that if these systems were adopted in the US, more qualified candidates would be attracted to teaching positions and the country would see improvement in student test scores.
Teachers in the US are currently not required to interact with other professionals or further their careers. Experts suggest that this causes issues when trying to advance careers, as other professions allow for a path to be followed, such as moving from first-year associate to managing partner for lawyers. Although teachers receive additional compensation for their years of experience, the closest path they could follow to career advancement is to become a principal, which is an entirely different job, writes Libby Nelson for Vox.
Although teacher skills improve quickly within the first five years on the job, some studies suggest that they then plateau, while others find that skills do increase, but at a less dramatic pace.
"There's no reward for getting better at it," said Marc Tucker, director of the National Center on Education and the Economy. "There's no career in teaching. There's no high amounts of responsibility to aspire to."
In addition, the report finds that teachers in the United States are spending more time in front of their classes and less time planning for those lessons than teachers in other countries. While teachers in the US spent an average of 27 hours each week in the classroom, educators in Korea and Shanghai were found to spend around 19 hours per week teaching.
"Teachers have no time to think, no time to learn, no time to study the kids, no time to study the curriculum," said Elizabeth Green, the author of Building a Better Teacher. "They have no way of seeing anything that's happening outside their own classroom."
A 2007 study suggests that collaboration is what helps teachers to improve, with a link shown between teacher collaboration and improved test scores in schools in Tennessee.
The current study holds similar findings, as teachers in all three countries observed follow systems that allow more collaboration time and less time spent on professional development found to be ineffective. Educators in these countries are responsible not only for student learning but also each other's effectiveness.
In an effort to introduce such a system into the US, Iowa has created a track for teachers that encourages leadership positions such as mentoring and helping to develop the curriculum used in their schools.