The fight to upgrade the quality of the nation’s teaching force has just begun. Years from now, the Chicago strike most likely will be viewed as a canary-in-the-coal-mine incident.
The awkward fact is that teaching in America has become a quasi blue-collar profession mostly shunned by top college graduates. The countries with the best education systems recruit from top graduates. What about our top graduates? A good barometer is Teach for America (TFA), which in 2011 drew nearly 48,000 applicants for 5,200 teaching positions. Those applicants included 12% of the seniors at Ivy League schools.
Here’s the question that never gets asked: What happens to the 43,000 top graduates who wanted to teach but didn’t get an offer from TFA? Nearly all seek other careers.
For the best and brightest college graduates in this country, jobs offered by regular school districts lack prestige. Their accountability-free practices give the best teachers no way to stand out. These young TFA applicants rose to the top of their high schools classes and won admittance to the top tier colleges. They want a shot at shining on the job as well.