In 135 pages (not including a swell foreword by Benno Schmidt), John Chubb does a fine job of examining key barriers to teacher quality in American public education and suggesting three big strategies for overcoming them. He unpacks 1) the potential of technology to augment the teacher arsenal (by reducing the total number of flesh-and-blood teachers that the system needs and thus advancing selectivity and compensation); 2) teacher preparation and the enforcement of quality and effectiveness in that domain, primarily via information and market forces; and 3) how to empower principals to staff their schools with individuals best suited to meeting the instructional needs and priorities of those schools. This paragraph gives you the flavor:

In exchange for the freedom, schools, and, especially, school leaders must be held strictly to account for student programs. That is the bargain that professionals should want—autonomy to control their work fully, to be compensated for it fairly, and to accept responsibility for its results. This is a very different arrangement than the one that has long governed education—and that now impedes the improvement of teacher quality. Policymakers need to take a fundamentally different approach. Teacher quality cannot be prescribed.

Chubb is exceptionally qualified to author this book. Currently acting chief of Education Sector, a policy think tank, he formerly spent seventeen years with EdisonLearning, where he served as chief education officer. Then there’s his distinguished career in political science, education policy, and international-education consulting. Reformers should take this book seriously, particularly because it comes at teacher quality from a very different direction than the “top down” schemes that most are now pursuing—with the best of intentions, of course, but with little to show for their efforts.

SOURCE: John E. Chubb, The Best Teachers in the World: Why We Don't Have Them and How We Could (Stanford, CA: Education Next Books, Hoover Institution Press, 2012).

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