As Dan Goldhaber noted in his article in the Spring 2016 issue of Education Next: “Of the characteristics [of teacher quality] that were measured in the still-revered 1966 Coleman report titled Equality of Educational Opportunity, those that bear the highest relationship to pupil achievement are first, the teacher’s score on the verbal skills test, and then his educational background.”
Why then, all parents might ask, shouldn’t all teachers be expected to have high verbal skills on tests of these skills, as well as a strong academic background? Why should the desire for diversity in a school’s teaching staff lead to some teachers having low or uninterpretable scores on basic licensure or other tests of academic competence? Why should some parents get low-scoring teachers for their children as a matter of public policy? That is what seems to be happening, although no one is saying this out loud.
In addition, attempts to strengthen admission criteria for teacher preparation programs have run into many buzz-saws. Probably the biggest buzz-saw is concern for the “cash cow” — the tuition money that the typically large number of college students in teacher preparation programs, especially early childhood or elementary programs, bring in, together with the marginally extra costs of preparing them for a career in teaching. Even teacher licensure tests (tests designed to protect students from academically incompetent teachers) are called “obstacles” by economists and others. No one but parents seems to worry about low academic competence in our teachers.