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Famed scholar bemoans the ‘low academic quality’ of today’s teachers

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When stacked up against other developed countries, the educational attainment of America’s students falls short.

For instance, the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment found that the average science, math and reading scores of U.S. students who took the assessment ranked behind several other nations.

What’s to blame for such figures? There are likely a number of factors, but in a recent column, one prominent scholar argues the “low academic quality” of America’s teachers is one critical downfall of our nation’s education system.

In a column published by Creators Syndicate, George Mason University economics professor Walter Williams writes the poor quality of teachers is “an issue that must be confronted and dealt with if we’re to improve the quality of education.”

As proof of the “low bar” set for today’s teachers, Williams highlights a few questions from teacher certification tests in various states:

From the column:

The Arizona teacher certification test asks: “Janet can type 250 words in 5 minutes, what is her typing rate per minute? a. 50wpm, b. 66wpm, c. 55wpm, d. 45wpm.”

The California Basic Educational Skills Test asks the test taker to find the verb in the following sentence: “The interior temperatures of even the coolest stars are measured in millions of degrees. a. Coolest, b. Of even, c. Are measured, d. In millions.” A California Basic Educational Skills Test math question is: “You purchase a car making a down payment of $3,000 and 6 monthly payments of $225. How much have you paid so far for the car? a. $3225, b. $4350, c. $5375, d. $6550, e. $6398.”

In addition to easy certification tests, Williams also argues that education departments at American colleges are often the weakest programs in higher education. He writes that education programs often draw students with low test scores and academic achievement. Williams asserts America’s education system would be better off without such programs:

Professors at schools of education tend to have the lowest level of academic respectability. American education could benefit from eliminating schools of education.

You might ask: Without schools of education, how would teachers be trained? I think that we ought to adopt a practice whereby teachers are hired according to their undergraduate major.

I learned this talking to a headmistress of a private school. She said she doesn’t hire education majors. She said that if she hires a teacher to teach chemistry, math, English or any other subject, the person must have a bachelor’s degree in the discipline. Pedagogical techniques can be learned through short formal training, coaching and experience.

Read the entire column.

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