theodp writes "The teaching profession gets schooled in cover stories from the big pubs this weekend, as Newsweek makes the case for Why We Must Fire Bad Teachers, and the NY Times offers the more hopeful Building a Better Teacher. For the past half-century, professional educators believed that if they could only find the right pedagogy, the right method of instruction, all would be well. They tried New Math, open classrooms, Whole Language — but nothing seemed to achieve significant or lasting improvements. But what they ignored was the elephant in the room — if the teacher sucks, the students suck. Or, as the Times more eloquently puts it: 'William Sanders, a statistician studying Tennessee teachers with a colleague, found that a student with a weak teacher for three straight years would score, on average, 50 percentile points behind a similar student with a strong teacher for those years. Teachers working in the same building, teaching the same grade, produced very different outcomes. And the gaps were huge.' But what makes a good teacher? When Bill Gates announced his foundation was investing $335 million in a project to improve teaching quality, he added a rueful caveat. 'Unfortunately, it seems the field doesn't have a clear view of what characterizes good teaching,' Gates said. 'I'm personally very curious.'"
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