And it's no wonder that teachers have a rough time when they're the ones being tested. A recent study by the American Institutes for Research showed that education majors had the lowest levels of practical literacy among college students. When asked to evaluate the arguments in a newspaper opinion article, such as this one, or summarize the results of an opinion survey, or compare credit card offers with different interest rates and fees, education majors scored at the bottom of the class. Education majors also have among the lowest SAT scores and do poorly on other measures of verbal and mathematical ability.
How can we expect elementary and secondary students to improve their achievement when the men and women who teach them are so ill-prepared to impart the necessary skills? Much of the emphasis in NCLB -- and the criticism it has generated -- has been focused on the required testing of students. But it's hard to imagine how students can perform better unless we ensure that teachers know the subject matter in the first place.
No doubt the states that receive poor grades from the U.S. Department of Education will cry foul, but insisting that all teachers meet high standards is critical to true education reform. We're putting the cart before the horse when we insist on higher test scores for students but accept mediocrity from teachers.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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