The Flat World & Education: Ch. 7 Summary

CHAPTER SEVEN: “Doing What Matters Most: Developing Competent Teaching”

According to Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, the development of competent teachers should not be left to chance.  She suggests formulating a framework that consists of strong professional preparation programs, the distribution of new resources, the wider dissemination of peer-reviewed research, and significantly more organized processes of informing teachers about best practices, successful programs and initiatives, and other tools needed by both administrators and instructors.  Darling-Hammond contends that a state and national infrastructure is needed to minimize the multiple and cumulative causes that eventuate in and sustain inequities and inefficiencies.  The patchwork quilt that characterizes U.S. education policy must be seriously overhauled in order to attend to developing a more coherent and substantive teaching-and-learning environment across the professional enterprise.

The author outlines what top nations do in support of teaching.  They are: high-quality teacher education for all; mentoring for novice teachers; ongoing professional training; showcasing competent teachers to other instructors; and competitive salaries across the board with added incentives for hard-to-staff areas.  She highlights efforts assisting new teachers in places like in Scandinavian and Asian countries, as well as mentor training programs for expert teachers such as in England, France, and Israel.  One of the keys to developing competent teachers is allowing for more preparation and learning time and developing collaborative relationships with leading teachers.  In many of the countries Darling-Hammond discusses, the government has played a solid, fiduciary role in education reform.  For example, in Australia, the government has sponsored “a large-scale multi-tiered program to update teacher skills in priority areas.”  Such professional development is a rarity in the United States.

In order to build an infrastructure for quality teaching, we must first begin with preparing teachers to succeed with students—especially in schools and communities serving low-income and minority students.  Teachers need to be equipped with foundational knowledge of how diverse students learn.  To do so, teachers must witness and emulate expert practices.  The tools must exemplify the law of specification and the law of consequences—aiming towards the best possible.  Teaching, or laboratory, schools must be developed and maintained to provide such preparation and ongoing professional development.  Some places have even created new (urban) schools to serve as models for existing schools in transitioning to state-of-the-art practices and in serving as “training grounds.”  Cultural competency training, Darling-Hammond asserts, is absolutely necessary to help remove biases and stereotypes in which teachers may have been socialized.  Such training greatly contributes to forging effective educational partnerships, developing curriculum, and improving instruction in addition to undertaking broad-based school reforms.

Darling-Hammond is not opposed to teacher performance assessments and standards-based evaluation systems that help to judge effective teaching and to suggest inadequacies in performance that need to be redressed.  Such standards hold professionals accountable and reinforce the collaborative enterprise that is necessary to applying best practices.  These assessments are particularly important for beginning teachers.  “Career ladders” programs model the kind of mentoring and leadership that need to take place in order to develop a consistently coherent and competent teaching (and learning) environment.  Study groups, peer networks, collaborative work, etc., help teachers and principals alike to identify problems of practice and seek to eliminate them.  Darling-Hammond reiterates the importance of additional and shared planning and learning time genuinely to focus on school redesign and curricular enhancement.  The literacy strategies discussed in early chapters in New Jersey and Connecticut illustrate this concentration well.

The author concludes by claiming that professional development for principals is equally important to that for teachers, for the former also should know about effective practices and how to implement successful instructional strategies.  Sustained improvement in teaching and learning often rely on the understanding of and professional development opportunities for principals as well as their innovative and supportive reallocation of resources.

About mdbwell

Pres., Project for the Beloved Community, Inc.; B.A.--Wesleyan University; M.Div.--Yale University; Ph.D.--Boston University; Summer Study--Harvard University; Social ethicist; Ordained minister; Advocate for the poor
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