Three Things that the U.S. Education System Does Well by Wendy Loloff Piersee, CEO

Observations from GSN CEO Wendy Loloff Piersee: 1) Recruit enthusiastic, dedicated teachers. 2) A common understanding that teachers are the critical link to achievement. 3) Opening the world up to students through technology.

1) Recruit enthusiastic, dedicated teachers. On John T. Harvey’s recent Forbes blog where he usually discusses microeconomics, he takes a break from the usual and describes his wife who has been a 4th grade teacher for 18 years using phrases like, “I don’t know anyone who works harder than she does…She gets up at 5:30am every morning...goes in early to work to get things ready for the day, spends the school hours teaching lessons…stays late to organize materials and set up special projects. During any given day, she may serve as instructor, mentor, counselor, intermediary, motivator, nurse, and disciplinarian...comes home around 5:30pm or 6:00pm, there are often papers to grade, parent calls to make, lesson plans to write…To those looking for a cushy 9:00 to 3:00 job, this ain’t it. If it weren’t for the summers, when she finally gets to recharge her batteries and spend some quality time with the rest of the family, I would have begged her to quit years ago” (Harvey, 2011). 

For those of us in the profession, we know there are certainly those that don’t pull their weight, but by and large, our education system would not have been able to survive in any way without the dedication of teachers across the country who don’t consider their reward to be quantified in hours or paychecks, but in seeing students learn.

“Data from 2008 indicate that hours spent by teachers on instruction is higher in the US than in any other OECD country. And Christiana Stoddard and Peter Kuhn found, since 1983, teacher on-the-job hours have increased by roughly one hour per week, while after school time devoted to work has jumped by 34% “ (Harvey, 2011).

2) A common understanding that teachers are the critical link to achievement.  Our system and the surrounding ecosystem of funders, departments of education, universities, etc. recognize that, “Teaching quality has been defined as instruction that enables a wide range of students to learn and it is the strongest school-related factor that can improve student learning and achievement” (Vega, 2014).  This in turn is leading to a greater emphasis on teacher support, professional development and coaching and feedback.

3. Opening the world up to students through technology.  While technology isn’t always used as effectively for learning as it could be, by and large, our system has solved the access issue making it possible to accelerate student learning using technology from this point forward. “About half of all public schools in the United States are providing handheld devices to administrators, teachers, or students, and, according to a new report released by the United States Department of Education, every single public school in the country is using computing technology in some way as part of instruction” (Nagel, 2010).

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