My doctor friends are always amused when education folks hold up the medical field as the exemplary profession. But medical envy is rampant across classrooms, offices, and the blogosphere, where the frustrated opine: “If only our society held teachers in the same regard as doctors…” and “If only teachers were paid like doctors…”and the politically-charged, “If only teachers had self-organized as professional associations, rather than adopt the industrial union model…” (see Rotherham’s blog post for a harsh snippet comparing the AMA and the NEA).
Another example – Dr. Atul Gawande’s book Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance, which describes the challenges of increasing performance in the medical field, is now required reading in some graduate-level education policy classes.
Over in the teacher-prep side, a recent National Council for Teaching Quality (NCTQ) study compares teacher prep programs in Illinois, with pretty sobering results. The NCTQ work is similar to an early-20th century study of medical schools – a study which contributed to the eventual shuttering of almost half of all medical schools due to abysmal performance.* Ben Carey also has an interesting take on preparation programs across sectors.
And coming up next month over in the data-driven part of town, Education Sector will tell us what can be learned from the medical field (not to mention Google and Farmville!) around data collection and use. Their seminar, Next Decade of Education Data takes place Dec. 7 in Washington, DC.
And so, readers out there – do you agree that the education field has much to learn from the medical field, especially around performance, preparation programs, and data?
*UPD is actually working with the NCTQ to bring this study national. More on that to come. (JF)
Comparing the outcomes of today’s medical schools and teacher prep programs will only be appropriate when admissions into teacher preparation programs become as rigorous as entrance into medical schools. This can happen but only if and when teachers are accorded the same social and professional status and salaries as medical doctors. This is the case on other societies. Until that happens in the USA, such comparisons are absurd.
Another issue to consider is what outcomes we should be measuring in both doctors and teachers . Certainly there are “objective” criteria to evaluate but what about the human qualities, interactions and relationships that make a difference in patient/student outcomes. These qualities are essential if doctors/teachers are to become more than data driven automatons.
I would turn the question on its head — What could and should the medical profession learn from educators about teaching and learning?
Judy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You offer an interesting theory of change by suggesting that increased status and salaries must come BEFORE higher admissions standards into teacher prep programs, as you say happens in other countries. McKinsey recently released a study on just this topic – comparing the pool of new teachers in the U.S. with that in other countries (http://tinyurl.com/2antffw). The study finds that in the U.S., only 23 percent of new entrants into the teaching profession – 14 percent in high needs schools – come from the top third of college graduates.*
The McKinsey study suggests that the U.S. could more than double the amount of “top third” new hires without raising teacher salaries, but that a larger increase would require a more substantial financial investment. I find the questions posed around a national recruitment strategy (page 45) particularly spot-on, if inconclusive.
As to your second point, Sara Mead has an interesting paragraph (http://tinyurl.com/2eoavft, third from the bottom) on process quality, or the interactions and experiences of student learning. While I hope that innovative schools out there are piloting process quality measurement in order to push the field, these measurements are very much in development stage. As you move up levels of government – especially to the state level – I think your responsibility is to have a laser-like focus on the more reliable outcome measures.
* Disclosure: Proof Points, a sponsor of the McKinsey study, is a UPD client.
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