Several weeks ago, my column "Teacher Ineptitude" was about the sorry state of teacher quality and concluded that while teacher ineptitude is neither flattering nor comfortable to confront, confront it we must if we're to do anything about our sorry state of education.
The situation is not pretty. Philadelphia schools are typical of poor-quality big-city schools. Susan Snyder, Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer, in her article "District to Help Teachers Pass Test" (March 24, 2004) reported "that half of the district's 690 middle school teachers who took exams in math, English, social studies and science in September and November failed." Other test results haven't been released; Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said he understands "concerns that releasing the data could subject teachers to humiliation. ... "
The unflattering fact that we must own up to is that many, perhaps most, of those who choose teaching as a profession represent the very bottom of the academic barrel. Let's look at it.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) compiles loads of statistics on education. The NCES "Digest of Education Statistics" Table 136 shows average SAT scores by student characteristics for 2001. Students who select education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any major (964). Math majors have the highest (1174).
It's the same story when education majors finish college and take tests for admission to graduate schools. In the case of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), education majors have an average score that's the lowest (467) of all majors except for sociology majors (434). Putting this in perspective, math majors score the highest (720), followed closely by economics in third place (625).
It's roughly the same story for students taking the LSAT for admission to law schools where the possible scores range between 120 and 180. Out of 29 majors, education majors ranked 26th, averaging a score of 148. Physics/math majors came in first with a 158 score and economics majors third with 155. Readers can readily obtain this information by a Google search using the words "GRE major" and "LSAT major."