March 26, 2001

Teacher Training

CHICAGO—The Northwestern report on Chicago’s troubled high schools is a clear reminder that education reform is a long and demanding task (news story, March 10).

Teachers are central to success. While it acknowledges improvements in reading and math scores for the city’s 95,000 high school students, the report also found that nearly half of all teachers in low-scoring schools reach just one-fifth of students in their classrooms.

Why? According to chief researcher Fred Hess, reform’s efforts at teacher training and improvement have not been intense enough. We agree. We think school leadership is a critical predicate for student attainment. That means both principals and teachers practicing at or near the top of their abilities.

To advance that cause, we have worked closely with the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union to support national board certification for teachers. Certification means a teacher has distinguished himself within the profession.

A national study underwritten by the U.S. Department of Education found such teachers scored better than non-board certified teachers on 11 of 13 measures of good teaching, include the ability to understand the reasons for student success and failure on any given academic task and a mastery of content that is tied to instruction.

This academic year, some 200 of Chicago’s 26,000 teachers have undertaken the stringent process to achieve certification. That’s a big step up from last year’s total of 10.

The certification process costs $2,300 and requires a great commitment (more than 400 hours) from busy teachers. If successful, the teachers can receive up to $8,500 in cash bonuses from the city, state and our organization. More important to the system, though, they will become recognized leaders in their profession. We believe – as does the School Board – they will encourage their peers to seek certification. In so doing, more students will learn, and the esteem in which our public school teachers are held will increase.