“What I hadn’t realized was that setting a high bar at the beginning of the profession sends a signal to everyone else that you are serious about education and teaching is hard,” Ripley told me. “When you do that, it makes it easier to make the case for paying teachers more, for giving them more autonomy in the classroom. And for kids to buy into the premise of education, it helps if they can tell that the teachers themselves are extremely well educated.”
Once they are admitted, critics say, prospective teachers need more rigorous study, not just of the science and philosophy of education but of the contents, especially in math and the sciences, where America trails the best systems in Asia and Europe. A new study by the Education Policy Center at Michigan State, drawing on data from 17 countries, concluded that while American middle school math teachers may know a lot about teaching, they often don’t know very much about math. Most of them are not required to take the courses in calculus and probability that are mandatory in the best-taught programs.
Now, of course, there is the debate about “content” and “taking a course” (e. g. some states allow for a course to qualify as a “content check off” without actually being a course in the subject).
There will be pushback; I’ve been frequently distressed to hear students complain “why do I have to learn X…all I want to do is to teach math.”