Monday, April 29, 2013

Brooklyn Charter School Targets Rich, White Parents, Enrollment Plan Shows Updated 21 mins ago

Citizens of the World Charter School,

P.S. 221,

charter schools,


SUNY Charter Schools Committee

Brooklyn Charter School Targets Rich, White Parents, Enrollment Plan Shows Updated 21 mins ago

BROOKLYN — If you want to be a citizen of the world, it helps to be rich.
Though it's moving into a school where more than 90 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, the controversial Los Angeles-based Citizens of the World Charter school is actively recruiting affluent families for its first year in Crown Heights, New York has learned. 
What's more, the primary engagement strategy for its New York flagship school in Williamsburg is geared almost exclusively at white parents, according to an internal enrollment plan obtained by DNAinfo.
"Through targeted outreach and recruitment, our schools are intentionally designed to reflect their surrounding communities and the larger society in terms of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status," the charter network says on its website.
But the New York enrollment memo seems to directly contradict that statement, with the most time and resource-intensive recruitment tools clearly aimed at a small pocket of affluent families, while cheap, low-impact tactics like handing out fliers reserved for Headstarts and churches where recruiters are instructed to "lean towards" black and Hispanic families. 
A chart titled CSD 14 Priorities lists the recruiters' top strategy as "engaging core parent group" and describes the target of that strategy as "middle/upper income, predominantly white."
In District 17,  the top priority is to "create core foundation of contacts," a strategy again targeted exclusively at "middle/upper income" parents. 
Roughly half of the engagement strategies outlined in the memo are specifically intended to attract those same targets.
One-on-one parent meetings and one-on-one meetings with local pre-schools are saved for "middle/upper income" groups, whereas Headstarts are earmarked for flyering and group info sessions.
Where local preschools and Headstart programs were tough to differentiate, as in Crown Heights, recruiters are cautioned that not all may be "hot targets."
It's not just the paperwork that's skewed to exclude in Crown Heights — the charter's parent information session was held at the Brooklyn Public Library's Central Branch, more than two miles from P.S. 221 but a stone's throw from the district's wealthiest parents in Prospect Heights.
While Citizens showers its attention on affluent families, parents at P.S. 221 say they've barely heard from the school. 
"There’s been no community outreach or interaction," one mother of three who declined to give her name for fear of losing her job told DNAinfo in March.
"We heard them speak for about two minutes — that’s been the breadth of our interaction with the folks at Citizens."
Citizens of the World did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Four Signs Neoliberalism is (Almost) Dead

The Icelandic Canary

Four Signs Neoliberalism is (Almost) Dead

Though Margaret Thatcher is no longer among the living, her ideology lives on. That ideology – known today as neoliberalism, “free market fundamentalism” in a phrase coined by George Soros – is strikingly unique. Apart from religious beliefs, is there any example of an ideology that has been so thoroughly disproven yet maintains an aura of respectability?
The basic premise of neoliberalism – that “free markets” lead to better growth, higher prosperity and even more equality – was always fiction. As Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang has repeatedly pointed out, there is no such thing as a free market. Nor is there any example of a country that has developed by following the neoliberal tenets of privatization, liberalization and budget cuts. Instead countries have traditionally used some mix of subsidies, tariffs, and debt-financed investment to prop up industries and shift comparative advantage to higher-end goods.
Despite the history, neoliberals argue that markets alone should determine things like wages, and that corporations and their owners should be able to operate however they like. Developed countries that adopted neoliberal tenets post-1980 saw wages stagnate almost as quickly as corporate profits skyrocketed.
In the developing world it was much worse. Africa suffered two decades of economic stagnation as a direct result of being forced to follow these policies, with Latin Americans and Asians doing not much better. The past decade has seen some improvement, but the global community is still well behind where it should be in terms of eradicating things like hunger and preventable disease.
But the neoliberal era may finally be nearing its long-awaited end. Here’s why.
1) The IMF has admitted that budget cuts are not always the answer.
The IMF has for over three decades forced countries to restructure their economies to be in line with neoliberal tenets. In particular, they have forced indebted countries to cut budgets before they can borrow from capital markets to pay off creditors. The phrases bureaucrats and politicians invented to sell this ideology are by now clichĂ©s. “Governments can’t spend more than they earn,” “We all need to tighten our belts,” etc. etc. By cutting government spending, the story goes, countries make room for increased private sector spending, and the economy grows.
Though earlier IMF studies had come to similar conclusions, it wasn’t until January 2013 that the IMF’s chief economist published what amounts to a “mea culpa”. Turns out that decreasing public investment is actually a pretty good way to hurt prospects for economic growth rather than increase them. Oops.
And there’s another twist in the story. For the last few years, decision makers have been citing a paper by Harvard economists that ostensibly highlights the dangers of countries borrowing too much in order to finance public expenditures. The paper specifically suggested a cutoff – when the debt hits 90% of GDP – beyond which economies would suffer for their overspending ways. The paper has been cited by public officials around the globe to justify budget cuts. But it turns out that the paper’s conclusions were a result of a series of errors, one of which was forgetting to update a calculation on an Excel spreadsheet. When the correct data is put in place, the conclusions more or less disappear.
Double oops.
2) The Doha development round is dead 
In November, 2001 the World Trade Organization launched its “Doha development round”. Despite its name, the Doha round was about anything but development. High on the agenda were things like removing social and environmental protections, eliminating subsidies for poor farmers, and ensuring that big pharmaceutical companies could maintain patents on (and greatly increase the cost of) life-saving medicines.
With the help of progressive activists from Seattle to Hong Kong, and due to the huge uprising of developing countries in the WTO’s Cancun ministerial, Doha is more-or-less dead and the WTO is at a standstill. That’s great news for those who want to see fair trade as opposed to “free trade” and trade deals that put development and human rights first. The challenge now is to come up with a framework (and maybe even a mechanism) for multilateral regulation of global trade that prioritizes human rights over corporate profits.
3) Countries are increasingly trading in local currencies
Apart from the IMF, one way for the U.S. to maintain its control over the global economic system is the supremacy of the U.S. dollar. Certain transactions must be done in U.S. dollars – buying petroleum for example – and the U.S. dollar is still seen as the safest global currency. The result is that the dollar’s value remains artificially high, increasing the purchasing power of U.S. consumers and the desire of everyone else to sell to the U.S.
This deal benefits almost no one (not even U.S. consumers) and some governments have begun to look for alternatives. Agreements to begin to trade in local currencies have been negotiated between Brazil and China, Turkey and Iran, China and Japan, and the BRICS countries. Though some of these agreements are just taking off, if implemented they represent a significant challenge to the status quo.
4) 2007-08 proved beyond a doubt that markets don’t regulate themselves. And Iceland proved that there is another way.
The financial crisis of 2007-08 is far from the first financial crisis of the neoliberal era; in fact it would also be accurate to call the neoliberal era the “era of financial crisis”. From Mexico in 1982, to other countries in Latin America soon after that, to the U.S. stock market collapse in 1987, to Japan in 1990, to the Asian financial crisis of 1997, to Russia and Brazil in 1998-99, to Turkey and Argentina in 2000-2002, to the collapse of the dot com bubble, there has hardly been a moment since 1980 when there is not a financial crisis happening somewhere. What usually happens in such times is that governments take measures to protect the elites (usually the bankers who actually caused the crisis) and shift the burden of paying for the costs to the general public. The current crisis is a good case in point.
But unlike previous crises there are indications that this time we might be looking at a system change. The first of these is just the scale of the crisis. The collapsed U.S. housing bubble represented about $8 trillion USD in artificial wealth. That’s more than 11% of global GDP, and that’s not counting the housing bubbles that collapsed in Europe and elsewhere. This is market failure on a massive scale.
This time there’s also an example of a country that protected its citizens, jailed its bankers and is doing much better as a result. The country, Iceland, joins Argentina as one of the only countries to default on debts as a result of financial crisis. The disasters that “everyone” was expecting (no access to currency markets, investors blacklisting Iceland, etc) never materialized, showing that even small countries can stand up to the international creditor cartel and live to tell the tale.
Iceland demonstrates that there’s nothing natural about neoliberalism. The decision to protect elites from the effects of markets while using those same markets to punish everyone else is a political injustice, not a natural law.
And it is this injustice which ensures that neoliberalism will go the way of the dodo. Ultimately markets are just a social contract, like marriage. And just as the move towards marriage equality now seems inevitable, drastic reform of the way we relate to markets is on the way.

Sameer Dossani is Advocacy Coordinator, Reshaping Global Power with ActionAid International, a global anti-poverty organization. As an activist, Sameer has campaigned against neoliberal policies since 1996 in the U.S., Canada, India and the Philippines. Views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of ActionAid International.

The Nation: Ravitch and Haimson on Failures of Bloomberg Policy and Mayoral Control

The Education of Michael Bloomberg

Mayor Michael Bloomberg observes fifth graders at Brooklyn’s Public School 262.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg observes fifth graders at Brooklyn’s Public School 262. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

In 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his schools chancellor at the time, Joel Klein, testified before Congress that their policies had led to a substantial narrowing of the racial achievement gap, meaning the gap in test scores between white students and those of color: “Over the past six years, we’ve done everything possible to narrow the achievement gap—and we have. In some cases, we’ve reduced it by half,” said Bloomberg. He repeated that claim in 2012, saying, “We have closed the gap between black and Latino kids and white and Asian kids,” he said. “We have cut it in half.”

About the Author

Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, was assistant secretary of education for...
Leonie Haimson
Leonie Haimson is the executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy group based in New York City, and is on the...

Also by the Author

Bringing "choice" and "accountability" to the education system sounded good on paper, but in reality, that effort has failed.
The notion that there had been a great improvement in the public schools, leading to sharp increases in achievement among minority children—the majority of the city’s public school students—was echoed in the mainstream media. It helped Bloomberg retain mayoral control of the public schools, which the state legislature had granted him shortly after his election in 2002, and to win a third term in 2009 (a campaign in which he spent a record $108 million).
Unfortunately, his claims of closing the achievement gap proved misleading. On the reliable national assessment known as the NAEP, there had been no significant increase in scores or narrowing of the gap since 2003, when the mayor’s policies were first imposed. In 2010, the state Education Department finally admitted what observers had long suspected: that the state exams had become overly predictable and that scoring well had grown easier over time.
After New York State acknowledged that test score inflation had occurred, scores across the state were recalibrated and declined dramatically. The achievement gap was revealed to be as wide as it had been before Bloomberg implemented his policies. The black-white test proficiency gap in eighth-grade reading actually increased. By last year, 29 percent of black students were proficient in reading, compared with 62 percent of white students. If one compares the gains on the NAEP since 2003 of all economic, racial and ethnic student subgroups, New York comes out second to last of the large cities—only Cleveland, one of the nation’s lowest-scoring cities, has seen less progress.
* * *
Data and Diversity
The mayor has sought to manage the city’s 1,500 or so schools and 1.1 million students as if he were running a business. Data, derived mainly from standardized tests, are his primary management tools. While focused on test scores, Bloomberg has allowed class sizes to increase, despite the fact that class-size reduction is one of only a handful of reforms proven to narrow the achievement gap (and is the top priority of parents, according to the Education Department’s own surveys).

In a December 2011 speech, Bloomberg said that he would double class size if he could by firing half of the teachers, and that it would be “a good deal for the students.” On his weekly radio show in March, he claimed that even if classes were so overcrowded that students were forced to stand, the result would be fine as long as they had quality teachers: “that human being that looks the student in the eye” and “adjusts the curriculum” based on an “instinct” for “what’s in the child’s interest.”

Numerous studies show that black and Hispanic children receive twice the academic gains from smaller classes as white children. Though the state’s highest court concluded in 2003 that the city’s children were denied their constitutional right to an adequate education based in large part on excessive class size, the size of classes in the early grades are now the largest in fourteen years, and about half of middle and high school students are in classes of thirty or more. Many teachers have 150 students, making it all but impossible for them to look students “in the eye” and give them the individual attention they need—especially students who are disadvantaged.
Meanwhile, the mayor has put relentless pressure on schools to raise their test scores. As a result, while allegations of cheating have spiked, many schools have seen a narrowing of the curriculum and have dropped their project-based learning and field trips. According to a 2011 audit by the city comptroller, not one of the schools in his sample complied with the state-required minimum amount of physical education.

In 2007, the mayor eliminated funding for the program known as “Project Arts.” Since that time, spending on art supplies, equipment and partnerships with cultural institutions has declined. Between 2006 and 2010, the amount spent on art and music equipment and supplies was cut by 79 percent. The number of arts teachers has also fallen as a result of repeated budget cuts. In New York City, the arts capital of the nation, nearly one-fourth of all public schools have not a single art, music, theater or dance teacher on staff.

New York is the only city in the country where admissions to elite high schools are based on the results of a single exam. Bloomberg has not only aggressively defended this policy, but has also expanded the number of selective schools that make decisions based upon a single score. During his administration, the number of minority students admitted to selective high schools has dropped precipitously. At Brooklyn Tech, 24 percent of the students were black in 1999–2000, compared with 10 percent during the 2011–2012 school year. At Bronx Science, the share of black students dropped from 9 to 3.5 percent over the same period. At Stuyvesant, the city’s most selective high school, the number of black students fell from 109 in 2000 to forty in 2012, out of more than 3,000 students. Only nine have been accepted into the school for next year.

About the Author

Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, was assistant secretary of education for...
Leonie Haimson
Leonie Haimson is the executive director of Class Size Matters, an advocacy group based in New York City, and is on the...

Also by the Author

Bringing "choice" and "accountability" to the education system sounded good on paper, but in reality, that effort has failed.
Though black and Hispanic students make up about 71 percent of public and charter school students citywide, they received just 12 percent of specialized high school offers this year. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a civil rights complaint with the federal Office of Civil Rights on the grounds that the city’s admissions policy is racially discriminatory.
For the first time, Bloomberg also imposed a test-based policy for admissions into gifted and talented programs, which caused the percentage of minority children in these programs to plummet. Before 2006, community school districts devised their own policies and relied on more holistic measures. In 2006, 53 percent of students in these programs were black or Hispanic; now less than one-third are. Last year, in some large areas of the Bronx, too few children tested “gifted” for a single gifted class to be offered, while in wealthier parts of the city—where parents send their 4-year-olds to expensive test-prep programs—more than half of the children are deemed gifted.
The expansion of charter schools has been another source of widening inequity. Bloomberg has been an aggressive proponent of charter schools, which receive public funds but are run by private corporate boards. The mayor, together with a set of wealthy philanthropists, successfully lobbied to have the cap raised on charter schools in 2007 and again in 2010. Recently, it was revealed that he plans to start his own chain of such schools when he leaves office, and has assigned city employees to the task of designing them.
Charter schools enroll fewer special-needs students, English-language learners and children in extreme poverty than do public schools in the same communities. In the Bronx, they enroll half as many ELLs and children with disabilities as the neighborhood public schools. As the number of charter schools has proliferated, the concentration of the most at-risk students in nearby public schools has risen, with less space and fewer resources to serve them.
The siting of charter schools in public school buildings has led in many cases to such overcrowding that the pre-existing schools have lost pre-K programs, classrooms, art rooms and libraries, forcing students with disabilities to receive their services in hallways and closets. Many parents and students perceive separate but unequal conditions, as the charter schools often have refurbished classrooms and bathrooms and more computers and whiteboards, as well as smaller classes and more staff. In addition, many of the higher-performing charters have a “no excuses” philosophy, with rigid disciplinary policies and long school days, which in turn contributes to a high rate of suspensions and children who are “pushed out”—especially those with special needs. Teacher and principal attrition rates also tend to be very high, signaling dissatisfaction with the harsh working conditions and classroom environment.
* * *
Winners and Losers
Another signature Bloomberg policy with disparate effects is school closures. During his administration, he has closed more than 150 schools, most of which have had disproportionate numbers of at-risk students, with higher percentages of students who are over age for their grade because they have been previously held back, are poor or need special education services. The high schools slated for closure have been shown to have larger rates of homeless students as well. Schools with large proportions of students receiving free lunches are eleven times more likely to receive failing grades on the city’s “progress reports” and become eligible for closure, as are schools with more over-age ninth graders. Few parents with means want to send their children to such schools. Thus, the competition model creates winners and losers, and the most disadvantaged and at-risk students are the ones who lose the most.
As schools are phased out, the majority of students who remain are prevented from transferring elsewhere and thus lose access to many programs and courses they need to graduate or to be prepared for college. Dropout and discharge rates surge. Struggling students who would have attended these schools are sent to other nearby schools, overcrowding them and causing them to spiral downward in a domino effect. Some commentators have likened the current practice of closing large numbers of schools to the now-discredited policy of “urban renewal,” when whole neighborhoods in the 1950s and early ’60s were flattened and the displaced residents sent to live in worse conditions elsewhere. Bloomberg has scoffed at parents who have criticized these policies. In 2011, on his weekly radio program, he said: “Unfortunately, there are some parents who just come from—they never had a formal education, and they don’t understand the value of education.”
* * *
Reinforcing Inequities
Overall, the city’s graduation rate has increased—a fact touted by the mayor in his recent State of the City address. However, this is partly the result of lowered standards—including “credit recovery” programs that allow students to gain the credits they need to graduate via software programs where they can look up the answers to multiple-choice questions with little or no oversight. Moreover, according to the administration’s own statistics, in 2010, when the city claimed a 61 percent four-year graduation rate, only 21 percent of all students who had entered high school four years earlier were college-ready. In 2011, only 13 to 15 percent of black and Latino students were. As a result of poor preparation, nearly 80 percent of the city’s public high school graduates who enroll in community colleges require remediation. The number of high school graduates needing triple remediation (in reading, writing and math) has doubled in recent years.
Under Bloomberg’s direction, and now the state’s as well, the bureaucracy operates with a slavish devotion to “data,” but an indifference to the actual human beings the data represent. The public is weary of this approach. The Quinnipiac public opinion poll in January found that only 18 percent of the city’s voters want the next mayor to have the unilateral control over schools that Bloomberg has wielded. No economic, ethnic or racial group supports continuing mayoral control.
Only by rescinding mayoral control and instituting progressive reforms can we make our schools what they should be: centers of learning, collaboration, and humane interaction among children and adults—and a force for diminishing, rather than reinforcing, the dramatic inequality that has come to define our city.
In 2010, Joseph Featherstone reviewed Diane Ravitch's book The Death and Life of the Great American School SystemRead all of the articles in The Nation's special issue on New York City.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Teachers: Will We Ever Learn?

How does this guy claim to be a "we"? Did he ever stand in front of 30 5th graders?

April 12, 2013
Teachers: Will We Ever Learn?

IN April 1983, a federal commission warned in a famous report, “A Nation at Risk,” that American education was a “rising tide of mediocrity.” The alarm it sounded about declining competitiveness touched off a tidal wave of reforms: state standards, charter schools, alternative teacher-certification programs, more money, more test-based “accountability” and, since 2001, two big federal programs, No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top.

But while there have been pockets of improvement, particularly among children in elementary school, America’s overall performance in K-12 education remains stubbornly mediocre.

In 2009, the Program for International Student Assessment, which compares student performance across advanced industrialized countries, ranked American 15-year-olds 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math — trailing their counterparts in Belgium, Estonia and Poland. One-third of entering college students need remedial education. Huge gaps by race and class persist: the average black high school senior’s reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress continue to be at the level of the average white eighth grader’s. Seventeen-year-olds score the same in reading as they did in 1971.

As the education scholar Charles M. Payne of the University of Chicago has put it: “So much reform, so little change.”

The debate over school reform has become a false polarization between figures like Michelle Rhee, the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, who emphasizes testing and teacher evaluation, and the education historian Diane Ravitch, who decries the long-run effort to privatize public education and emphasizes structural impediments to student achievement, like poverty.

The labels don’t matter. Charter-school networks like the Knowledge Is Power Program and Achievement First have shown impressive results, but so have reforms in traditional school districts in Montgomery County, Md., Long Beach, Calif., and, most recently, Union City, N.J., the focus of a new book by the public policy scholar David L. Kirp.

Sorry, “Waiting for Superman”: charter schools are not a panacea and have not performed, on average, better than regular public schools. Successful schools — whether charter or traditional — have features in common: a clear mission, talented teachers, time for teachers to work together, longer school days or after-school programs, feedback cycles that lead to continuing improvements. It’s not either-or.

Another false debate: alternative-certification programs like Teach for America versus traditional certification programs. The research is mixed, but the overall differences in quality between graduates of both sets of programs have been found to be negligible, and by international standards, our teachers are underperforming, regardless of how they were trained.

HERE’S what the old debates have overlooked: How schools are organized, and what happens in classrooms, hasn’t changed much in the century since the Progressive Era. On the whole, we still have the same teachers, in the same roles, with the same level of knowledge, in the same schools, with the same materials, and much the same level of parental support.

Call it the industrial-factory model: power resides at the top, with state and district officials setting goals, providing money and holding teachers accountable for realizing predetermined ends. While rational on its face, in practice this system does not work well because teaching is a complex activity that is hard to direct and improve from afar. The factory model is appropriate to simple work that is easy to standardize; it is ill suited to disciplines like teaching that require considerable skill and discretion.

Teaching requires a professional model, like we have in medicine, law, engineering, accounting, architecture and many other fields. In these professions, consistency of quality is created less by holding individual practitioners accountable and more by building a body of knowledge, carefully training people in that knowledge, requiring them to show expertise before they become licensed, and then using their professions’ standards to guide their work.

By these criteria, American education is a failed profession. There is no widely agreed-upon knowledge base, training is brief or nonexistent, the criteria for passing licensing exams are much lower than in other fields, and there is little continuous professional guidance. It is not surprising, then, that researchers find wide variation in teaching skills across classrooms; in the absence of a system devoted to developing consistent expertise, we have teachers essentially winging it as they go along, with predictably uneven results.

It need not be this way. In the nations that lead the international rankings — Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Finland, Canada — teachers are drawn from the top third of college graduates, rather than the bottom 60 percent as is the case in the United States. Training in these countries is more rigorous, more tied to classroom practice and more often financed by the government than in America. There are also many fewer teacher-training institutions, with much higher standards. (Finland, a perennial leader in the P.I.S.A. rankings, has eight universities that train teachers; the United States has more than 1,200.)

Teachers in leading nations’ schools also teach much less than ours do. High school teachers provide 1,080 hours per year of instruction in America, compared with fewer than 600 in South Korea and Japan, where the balance of teachers’ time is spent collaboratively on developing and refining lesson plans. These countries also have much stronger welfare states; by providing more support for students’ social, psychological and physical needs, they make it easier for teachers to focus on their academic needs. These elements create a virtuous cycle: strong academic performance leads to schools with greater autonomy and more public financing, which in turn makes education an attractive profession for talented people.

In America, both major teachers’ unions and the organization representing state education officials have, in the past year, called for raising the bar for entering teachers; one of the unions, the American Federation of Teachers, advocates a “bar exam.” Ideally the exam should not be a one-time paper-and-pencil test, like legal bar exams, but a phased set of milestones to be attained over the first few years of teaching. Akin to medical boards, they would require prospective teachers to demonstrate subject and pedagogical knowledge — as well as actual teaching skill.

Tenure would require demonstrated knowledge and skill, as at a university or a law firm. A rigorous board exam for teachers could significantly elevate the quality of candidates, raise and make more consistent teacher skill level, improve student outcomes, and strengthen the public’s regard for teachers and teaching.

We let doctors operate, pilots fly, and engineers build because their fields have developed effective ways of certifying that they can do these things. Teaching, on the whole, lacks this specialized knowledge base; teachers teach based mostly on what they have picked up from experience and from their colleagues.

Anthony S. Bryk, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, has estimated that other fields spend 5 percent to 15 percent of their budgets on research and development, while in education, it is around 0.25 percent. Education-school researchers publish for fellow academics; teachers develop practical knowledge but do not evaluate or share it; commercial curriculum designers make what districts and states will buy, with little regard for quality. We most likely will need the creation of new institutions — an educational equivalent of the National Institutes of Health, the main funder of biomedical research in America — if we are to make serious headway.

We also need to develop a career arc for teaching and a differentiated salary structure to match it. Like medical residents in teaching hospitals, rookie teachers should be carefully overseen by experts as they move from apprenticeship to proficiency, and then mastery. Early- to mid-career teachers need time to collaborate and explore new directions — having mastered the basics, this is the stage when they can refine their skills. The system should reward master teachers with salaries commensurate with leading professionals in other fields.

In the past few years, 45 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Common Core standards that ask much more of students; raising standards for teachers is a critical parallel step. We have an almost endless list of things that we would like the next generation of schools to do: teach critical thinking, foster collaboration, incorporate technology, become more student-centered and engaging. The more skilled our teachers, the greater our chances of achieving these goals.

Undergraduate education programs and graduate schools of education have long been faulted for being too disconnected from the realities of practice. The past 25 years have seen the creation of an array of different providers to train teachers — programs like Teach for America, urban-teacher residencies and, most recently, schools like High Tech High in San Diego and Match High School in Boston that are running their own teacher-training programs.

Again, research suggests that the labels don’t matter — there are good and bad programs of all types, including university-based ones. The best programs draw people who majored as undergraduates in the subjects they wanted to teach; focus on extensive clinical practice rather than on classroom theory; are selective in choosing their applicants rather than treating students as a revenue stream; and use data about how their students fare as teachers to assess and revise their practice.

THE changes needed to professionalize American education won’t be easy. They will require money, political will and the audacity to imagine that teaching could be a profession on a par with fields like law and medicine. But failure to change will be more costly — we could look up in another 30 years and find ourselves, once again, no better off than we are today. Several of today’s top performers, like South Korea, Finland and Singapore, moved to the top of the charts in one generation. Real change in America is possible, but only if we stop tinkering at the margins.

Jal Mehta, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the author of the forthcoming book “The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling.”