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Policy Innovators in Education Network

American schools are in a constant, unending race to recruit and then retain some 300,000 teachers annually. Given that U.S. colleges issue a grand total of perhaps 1.5 million four-year diplomas a year across all majors and disciplines, even non-mathematicians can see that the K-12 schools are seeking to recruit about one in five new college graduates into the teaching profession. No wonder shortages are endemic and quality a persistent concern. To improve schooling, the U.S. has adopted the peculiar policy of hiring ever more teachers and asking them each to do the same job in roughly the same way. This dilutes the talent pool while spreading training and salaries over ever more bodies. Currently, there are 3.4 million K-12 teachers in the U.S., representing ten percent of the college-educated workforce. It should not surprise that some are far more skilled than others at teaching reading or mentoring at-risk youth. Yet schools casually waste scarce talent by operating on the implicit assumption that most teachers will be similarly adept at everything. Ultimately, the goal is to rethink the teacher challenges of the 21st century. Americans have been slowed by habits of mind, culture, and institutional inertia that imagine a future for schools and school districts that embodies today's familiar assumptions. Transformative change begins by forcing the nation to imagine something beyond the rhythms of the 20th century teaching profession.

Descriptors: Talent, Teacher Effectiveness, College Graduates, At Risk Students, Reading Instruction, Elementary Secondary Education, Teaching (Occupation), Mentors, Teacher Recruitment, Teacher Persistence, Teacher Salaries

Policy Innovators in Education Network. 401 Second Avenue North Suite 405, Minneapolis, MN 55415. Tel: 612-354-3253; e-mail: info[at]; Web site:

Autor: Hess, Frederick M.


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