Education Reform: Pre and Post Employment Teacher Training
- Importance of Teachers — Recent research demonstrates the importance of teachers to student success with teachers in the same school consistently showing significant differences in gains in student achievement. The economic impact of these differences is sizeable. A teacher one standard deviation above the mean can increase the present value of future earnings of a class of 20 students by over $400,000 compared to an average teacher. This not the value added over a teacher’s career, but rather the annual impact.
The same research finds that removing the bottom five to eight percent of teachers and replacing them with average teachers nationwide could increase annual U.S. GDP growth by a full percentage point.
Teacher evaluation, tenure, collective bargaining and compensation are all important in ensuring that Michigan has the best teachers. These topics are addressed in future papers. However, research cited in this paper illustrates the importance of having high quality teachers to the state’s economic future.
- Teacher Exporting — Michigan is a net exporter of teachers. The Michigan Education Association indicates that 5,000 of the 7,500 annual teacher training graduates leave the state each year. On the one hand, the shortage of teaching position in Michigan suggests that Michigan may be able to cherry pick the best and brightest candidates for its limited open teaching slots.
On the other hand, to the extent that these candidates are being trained at public Universities, it suggests that Michigan may not be allocating scarce education resources in the most efficient manner. Each public university in Michigan has its own decision making board, rather than belonging to a tightly unified statewide system, making it challenging to coordinate programs. Changes that raised the admission standards to teaching programs and lowered the number of graduates may represent a more efficient allocation of public resources. Similarly, the state could seek to close down low performing programs to concentrate resources on the top performing programs.
- Teacher Training and Certification — There is no consensus on the appropriate entity for determining entry into the teaching field, whether by examination, by completion of an approved training program or by organizations of teachers, by colleges, or by government officials. The vast majority of Michigan teachers are prepared for teaching at University teacher training programs. The Michigan Department of Education recognizes 33 state programs. The state also requires candidates for certification to pass subject area tests. Michigan recognizes 114 teacher specialties, each with a test for endorsement.
Nationally about one-third of teachers hired since 2005 have come through alternative certification programs. Alternative certifications programs are seen as a way to achieve a number of goals including:
- Expanding the number of minority teachers
- Recruiting individuals with significant academic and occupational experience into teaching
- Expanding the pool of math, science, foreign language, or other specialty teachers available to work in poor and urban districts.
According to the Michigan Department of Education, only 0.7 percent of Michigan teachers completing the certification process in 2006 did so following a nontraditional route. There may be significant benefits to increasing the number of teachers who do not follow the traditional path into teaching. However, policymakers must also be sensitive to the fact that Michigan is already preparing far more teachers through traditional university training programs than the state can hope to employ.