How to deal with the teacher shortage | IN RESPONSE

As a Review-Journal subscriber, an experienced high school teacher for the Clark County School District, and a member of the Clark County Education Association, I feel compelled to counter some of the assumptions you rely on to solve the problem of teacher retention and encouraging effective teaching.

In your March 13 op-ed, “Teacher Shortages and the Status Quo,” you suggest that “subject knowledge” should be the main prerequisite for obtaining a teacher’s license, as opposed to merely ” degrees” obtained in teaching schools, that degrees obtained through education in school courses are mostly irrelevant to actual teaching, and that the lack of incentives to improve teaching is the fault of the “trade union rules”.

First, “subject knowledge” is not enough. “Knowledge of educational content” is also necessary, an idea first presented more than 30 years ago by Lee Shulman in “Those who understand: the growth of knowledge in teaching”. Pedagogical content knowledge “goes beyond subject knowledge itself to the dimension of subject knowledge for teaching”. This would include a thorough appreciation of the many ways in which learners progress and the many ways in which students typically misunderstand a given topic, as well as strategies for dealing with these challenges.

This brings me to the second point regarding schools of education. This is where student teachers first encounter ideas about child development, learning and broader ideas about subject acquisition. Students need teachers who plan lessons, orchestrate class discussions, and identify where students are coming from, sometimes on the fly, sometimes by carefully reviewing submitted written work. Schools of education promote challenging and challenging research into how people learn that forms the basis of eventual expertise that accompanies teaching experience. Schools of education usually rely on other schools or departments to properly prepare students for knowledge of a subject. If a new teacher cannot correctly factor a polynomial, please point the finger at the college math department, not the school of education.

Third, it is misleading to characterize the terms of agreements negotiated between unions and school boards as “union rules”. They are also “school board rules”. If the school board wishes to modify the terms and conditions, it may propose new ones.

Proven free market mechanisms for retaining workers include improving working conditions and increasing pay. I suppose my union leadership would gladly consider such proposals.

Thank you for reminding readers of this important issue. I just don’t agree that any reform informed by the assumptions you make to this issue will lead to solutions.

Kenneth Wright writes from Las Vegas.

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