Quality Assurance: What Must Be Done to Strengthen the Teaching Profession

By Shanker, Albert | Phi Delta Kappan, November 1996 | Go to article overview

Quality Assurance: What Must Be Done to Strengthen the Teaching Profession


Shanker, Albert, Phi Delta Kappan


When high standards are important at every point in a teacher's career, when those high standards are not suspended in the face of teacher shortages, and when being an accomplished teacher is recognized and adequately rewarded, then we will have teacher quality assurance and vastly greater confidence that we are providing a quality education for all students, Mr. Shanker avers.

Rising expectations about what all students should know and be able to do, breakthroughs in research on how children learn, and the increasing diversity of the student population have all put significant pressure on the knowledge and skills teachers must have to achieve the ambitious goal demanded of public education at the end of the 20th century. That goal is to ensure that children of all backgrounds master a demanding core curriculum and other material that will prepare them to assume their civic and social responsibilities in a democratic society, compete in the global economy, and benefit from opportunities for postsecondary education. Unless and until there is a commitment to enhance the quality and professionalism of America's teaching force, it is unlikely that we will achieve this national goal any time soon.

Many of the attributes that characterize a profession are not hallmarks of today's teaching profession. To be considered a true profession, an occupation must have a distinct body of knowledge - acknowledged by practitioner and consumer alike - that undergirds the profession and forms the basis for delivering high-quality services to clients; define for itself the nature of the training required of those who wish to enter the field; require rigorous training to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to practice the profession; control the standards for entry into the profession; have its practitioners be a major voice in determining their working conditions; have its practitioners exercise independent judgment about client needs to ensure that those needs are met; evaluate the performance of practitioners and remove from the profession those whose performance falls below standards; require that practitioners continue to learn about advances in the field; induct its members into the profession in a systematic and rigorous fashion; and have the respect of the larger society.

If teaching is to become a true profession, we must establish high standards for entry into teacher training programs and deliver high-quality preservice education to prospective practitioners. We must set and maintain high and rigorous standards for entry into the profession and evaluate practitioners according to those standards. We must provide support for weak teachers and, when necessary, counsel poor teachers out of the profession. We must become a major participant in the decisions that affect the working and learning environment of the school - for example, decisions regarding budget, hiring, curriculum, student placement, assessment, and instructional strategies.

"Quality assurance" in teaching depends upon developing such capacities in the teaching profession. To achieve this goal will require changes in the recruitment of teachers, in the manner in which they are trained (both in preservice programs and in professional development programs), and in the policies and practices relating to induction, licensure, and the granting of tenure. It will also require changes in the way schools are organized and in the reward structures available to teachers.

Attracting Well-Prepared Students

Although many bright, well-prepared individuals choose to be teachers, it is also the case that the field attracts poorly prepared students. Why? Unlike other countries, where entry into university training is based on passing examinations with demanding content, in this country a high school diploma is virtually all that is required for entry into college, and, until quite recently, was all that was necessary to enter many teacher training programs. …

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