Why We Need to Improve Teacher Recruitment

It’s fairly well established that teacher quality is a vital component to student achievement. But what is the academic record of those who pursue advanced degrees in the field of education? The record is not so encouraging.

That’s the point made by Tom Shuford, who writes a letter in today’s Wall Street Journal (link for subscribers) (emphases added). He writes in part:

Applicants for graduate study in education administration — tested between July 1, 2001, and June 30, 2004 — had a combined mean total GRE (Graduate Record Examination) score of 950 (Verbal, 427; Math, 523). That is sixth from the bottom of 51 fields of graduate study tabulated by the Educational Testing Service.

The mean total GRE score across all fields was 1066. Which applicants had still lower total GRE scores than applicants in education administration? Social work, 896; early childhood, 913; student counseling, 928; home economics, 933; special education, 934 — education fields all. Other fields with mean GRE scores on the far left side of the GRE bell curve? Seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th from the left tip of the curve, respectively: public administration (“practices and roles of public bureaucracies”), 965; other education, 968; elementary education, 970; education evaluation and research, 985; other social science, 993.

Note the pattern: Eighty-plus percent on the far-left-side-of-the-GRE-bell-curve are headed for — or, more likely, already employed by — public education systems. Ninety-plus percent are headed for some form of government employment. This GRE snapshot of the capabilities of the people who run government schooling monopolies is not unrelievedly bleak: There is one education “outlier,” secondary education, that has a mean score of 1063, in the middle of the bell curve distribution.


Doubtless, some people in schools do a good job. But clearly, people with higher abilities, at least as measured by the GRE, aren’t heading for or staying in education. The “stay the course” recommendation would be to raise the pay for those in schools. But an across-the-board pay scale, which is surely what would result, would also make the field more attractive to the relative underachievers.

Working out the details of some merit pay system is difficult. But it should be done.

(Dismal GRE Statistics for Education Fields, Wall Street Journal, July 25)

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  • Ryan  On July 26, 2007 at 8:13 am

    The GRE is a farce. It is in no way indicitive of how a educational professional will perfom in his or her field of education.

  • kansaseducation  On July 26, 2007 at 8:33 am

    I’m not sure that I would call the GRE “a farce.” It’s used by many (most?) graduate programs as a tool in the admissions process.

    There are at least two questions here. One is “How well does the GRE predict success in a graduate program?” Presumably, well enough for grad schools to use it. Perhaps there are studies out there that reveal its utility for this purpose.

    The second is “How well does a graduate program predict success in the professional field of education?” If the answer is “very well,” then we’re back to the GRE scores.

    One problem with education is that it values inputs (how many credits do you have) and clock time (how long have you been on the job) over accomplishments when it comes to determining salary–and in most situations involving teachers, everything involving keeping a job.

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