Raising the Grade on Teacher, Student Performance

March 1st, 2011

By: Bill Gates

When you think about it, teaching is one of the most difficult, complex professions there is. You have to be able to make a subject clear, and interesting. You have to calm the disruptive kids, challenge the advanced kids, humor the bored kids, and reach the kids who learn at a different pace. All with 30 students in the classroom.

No wonder it’s so challenging creating an education system that works. In the U.S., as elsewhere, educators and policymakers have struggled for years to figure out what’s needed to create effective learning environments. Since 1973, per-pupil spending in the U.S. has doubled. Yet, graduation rates have plunged from 2nd in the world to 16th. And our 15-year-olds now rank behind 22 other countries in science, and behind 31 countries in math.

In the decade that the foundation has been focused on improving education in the U.S., we also have tried different approaches. Initially we provided funding to make high schools smaller in the hope it would increase student achievement and drive down dropout rates. Over time, we have come to realize that the schools showing the biggest gains in student achievement were those that prioritized improving teaching. Great teaching really is the centerpiece of a strong education. Only by raising the quality of teaching are we going to make a big improvement in education.

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