At the end of every school year, many parents compare notes about teachers and then start lobbying to get their children into the best instructors' classrooms during the next year. Principals hate it, but a new report by the private consulting firm McKinsey & Co. indicates yet again that parents have the right idea. Great teachers make a difference. Analysts reviewed data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), and deduced that the "secret" to successful students is smart teachers. Less "duh"-inducing is McKinsey's discovery that getting smart people into the classroom (as countries such as South Korea and Finland routinely do) depends less on paying them fat salaries and more on making the profession competitive to enter and respected. Unfortunately, as our recent alternative certification report makes clear, the United States has done the opposite--in America, it's laughably easy to become a k-12 instructor. And while other countries invest substantial resources in solid teacher professional development that works, the U.S. doesn't. The Blob has tried everything else to improve education (more money, smaller classes, etc.). It would be nice if we could try the obvious.
"How to be top," The Economist, October 18, 2007