After 10 Years of Reform, Teaching Still Not A Full-Fledged Profession
Apr. 11, 1988
NEW YORK (AP) _ Ten years of teacher reform have produced ''awesome'' amounts of legislation but left unsettled whether teachers are full-fledged professionals or merely ''semiskilled workers,'' said a Rand Corp. report released Monday.
More than 1,000 bills were introduced and hundreds enacted in legislatures across the country during the past decade boosting teacher pay and tightening rules governing training and certification.
But that produced more contradiction than direction, concluded the 80-page report, ''The Evolution of Teacher Policy,'' by Linda Darling-Hammond and Barnett Barry of Rand's Center for the Study of the Teaching Profession in Santa Monica, Calif.
They said policymakers have so far failed to resolve the key question: whether teachers are professionals ministering to the individual needs of students, or ''semiskilled workers'' needing constant supervision and regulation.
''By sheer volume of legislation, it is clear that teaching has been 'reformed,''' said the report. But it added: ''Teaching policy is up for grabs - and there are lots of people grabbing.''
National Education Association President Mary Hatwood Futrell called the Rand report ''right on target.''
The Rand study is being published nearly five years after the Reagan administration issued the report ''A Nation at Risk,'' which blasted mediocrity in U.S. schools.
According to the Rand report:
-Average salaries rose 31 percent from 1981 to 1986 to $25,240. More recent figures from the National Education Association estimate average salaries at $28,000 this year.
''Teacher salaries are no longer a blatant disincentive to enter the profession,'' the report said.
Nineteen states have minimum salary schedules, particularly in the South where teacher pay tends to be low, But the average teacher's purchasing power is practically unchanged from 1971-72 levels, according to the analysis.
-Starting salaries are also up, but not enough to eliminate the gap between teaching and other professions. According to NEA figures, the average was $17,500 in 1987, while beginning accountants, chemists, computer specialists and engineers, for example, all earned in excess of $20,000.
-Nearly all states considered performance-based pay systems, including merit pay, from 1983 to '86. But such programs have often encountered delays because of teacher opposition and lack of funds.
-Twenty-seven states enacted tougher teacher training requirements, including testing of academic ability and minimum grade-point averages. States are increasingly stressing liberal arts background over education courses.
''Paradoxically, for a number of states, improving teacher preparation seems to mean reducing the amount of time devoted to traditional teacher education,'' the report said.
-By 1986, 46 states mandated teacher competency testing for admission to teacher education or certification or both. But some states have delayed implementation because of lack of funding, or because of concerns about the tests' validity or low pass rates among minority teaching candidates.
-Contradictorily, 46 states have cleared the way for substandard, limited emergency certification. Twenty-seven of those states issue certificates to people lacking even a bachelor's degree to solve teacher shortages.
''This practice undermines the tenet ... that only those who have mastered a specialized knowledge base will be admitted to practice,'' the report said.
A first wave of reform starting in the late 1970s was aimed at boosting pay and making teachers more accountable. States feared a looming teacher shortage and worried that poor quality teachers threatened efforts to boost their economies, the report said.
The last two years have produced new reforms aiming at freeing teachers from unnecessary regulation in the classroom. In effect, reformers wanted higher standards to enter teaching, but fewer rules about what and how to teach.
''This is, in essence, the bargain that all professions make with society,'' it said.
''The next generation of teacher policy reform will need to focus on the content and nature of effective teaching, its assessment, and its deployment within schools to ensure that the long-range goals of the reformers are met,'' the report concluded.