Teachers: the Push for Excellence

April 20, 1984

Report Outline
Upgrading the Quality
Testing the Teachers
Changing the System
Special Focus

Upgrading the Quality

Criticism Aimed at Classroom Teachers

Complaints about public schools are legion: students who cannot read or write, achievement test scores on the skids, poor discipline, relaxed standards and lowered expectations. Move to the head of the list complaints about the nation's 2.1 million public school teachers. Teachers are not newcomers to criticism. Their competence has come under increasing public scrutiny since the late 1970s as states began requiring prospective teachers to pass skills tests to prove their basic ability.

But now teachers are the focus of debate on the quality of education. Several states, most notably Arkansas, California, Florida and Tennessee, have enacted in the last year controversial educational reform packages with a heavy emphasis on improving teaching. Others, like Virginia and North Carolina, are testing similar plans. In general, these plans are designed to make it tougher to become a teacher and more financially rewarding for those who do, especially for the most talented. To date, most activity has been concentrated in Southern states, where schools have been rated among the poorest in the country in terms of state financial assistance and student performance.

Why the burst of interest in teachers? A number of recent reports concluded that teachers hold the key to upgrading the disappointing quality of American public schools. The National Commission on Excellence in Education touched off the teacher debate on April 26, 1983. “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might have viewed it as an act of war,” the commission concluded in its report, “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” The report stressed that the decline of America's smokestack industries and the rise of foreign, high-tech economic competition make education all the more vital as the foundation for a secure future. It is up to classroom teachers to lay that foundation, the commission said, but under current conditions there is reason to despair. The commission found:

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Apr. 10, 2015  Teaching Critical Thinking
Aug. 24, 2001  Teacher Shortages
Oct. 17, 1997  Teacher Education
Sep. 29, 1995  Teaching History
May 04, 1990  Should Teaching Be Made into a Profession?
Apr. 20, 1984  Teachers: the Push for Excellence
Sep. 12, 1975  Education's Return to Basics
Jan. 25, 1961  Teaching by Machine
May 01, 1957  Teaching Resources
Education Standards and Testing
Elementary and Secondary Education