What do school systems need to do to recruit and retain highly qualified, effective teachers? Researchers at McKinsey & Company have released a comprehensive report on what must be done to recruit teaching talent. Several of the report’s conclusions are delineated and explained in this informative blog.

Researchers at McKinsey & Company have released (yet another) report on how to attract teaching talent to our nation’s schools. Drawing on growing evidence from the world’s top-performing school systems (Singapore, Finland and South Korea) as well as surveys from top U.S. college graduates, Closing the Talent Gap totally challenges today’s conventional wisdom and many status-quo teaching policies posed by self-proclaimed reformers.

McKinsey’s convention-busting conclusions include:

  1. Recruiting academic talent (the “top third”) to teaching is insufficient to improve student achievement, because even the best and brightest need serious pedagogical preparation for helping diverse learners meet 21st century academic standards;
  2. Offering significantly higher salaries is necessary to recruit talented candidates, but not nearly sufficient (working conditions, such as ensuring effective principals and time for teachers to learn from each other are critical);
  3. Providing incentives for teachers to teach for a career, not encouraging quickly-trained new recruits to opt for short-term classroom stints, is the key to establishing a long-term effective teaching workforce; and
  4. Encouraging top recruits into teaching will require a “prestigious” profession where they can receive high-quality preparation and a chance to work with effective peers in a challenging and supportive environment.

This week, the documentary film Waiting for Superman from Davis Guggenheim (Training Day, An Inconvenient Truth) premiered in select cities nationwide. The film is powerful in its attempt to address a complex national issue of critical importance to many families who depend on public schools. Some journalists and many leading policymakers may walk away from the film mistakenly believing the improvement of teaching quality in America can be accomplished simply by firing some teachers who can’t tailor their instructional practices to a high-stakes test — or by expanding the number of charter schools in our most challenged communities.

The McKinsey report clearly shows us that in many nations whose students outperform ours, charter schools are the exception, not the rule, and unions are not only prevalent, but valued organizations that work with administrators to improve teaching and learning. In fact, teachers in Finland, the highest-scoring nation in the world, are 100% unionized.  Could it be that truly effective school reform in America will require some truly global thinking about all that needs to change?

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