How do we convince top students to become teachers?

November 01, 2010

Childs' Walker's excellent article ("University programs await K-12 reforms," Nov. 1) only alludes to a critical aspect of K-12 education reform: how to encourage our most talented and best students to enter the education profession. The recent McKinsey and Company report, "Closing the Talent Gap: Attracting and Retaining Top Third Graduates to a Career in Teaching" addressed this issue. It is important because of the increased expectations of teachers but also because of the need to replace the roughly half of our 3.5 million teachers will be eligible to retire during the next decade.

The McKinsey report points to several nations — Finland, South Korea and Singapore — with top-performing school systems that have addressed this issue by investing heavily in attracting excellent students and providing them with the education and training needed to succeed in the education profession. While the practices vary from country to country, the teacher training programs in these countries are very selective, they often provide scholarships and stipends, and they require graduate degrees in subject content as well as teacher education.

Hopefully, your article will open the door for a further discussion of the challenges we face in making our education system better, starting with attracting some of our best students to the education profession. Maryland should be an ideal place to strengthen the process of teacher recruitment and retention — it has strong public support; its schools are considered among the best in the country; it has outstanding education administrators including State superintendent Nancy Grasmick, Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso and Sydney Cousins in Howard County; national leaders in teacher education including Donna Wisesman, president-elect of the American Council on Teacher Education; and outstanding physical facilities, including the new and impressive Teacher Education and Technology Center (TETC) at Salisbury University.

Will these advantages enable Maryland to continue to lead, especially in the critical area of motivating our best and most talented students to consider and choose education, one of our most important and challenging professions? I hope so.

E. Niel Carey, Ellicott City

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