Improving Teaching: New Report Highlights Lessons From Other Nations

February 15, 2007  • Institute Contributor

Improving Teaching: New Report Highlights Lessons From Other Nations

Washington, DC, February 15, 2006 – One-third of new teachers leave within three years and half are gone within five years. Those with the best academic qualifications and achievement are most likely to leave. (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2003). If school systems were graded on the job they do at getting, keeping, and supporting great teachers, many would get grades of C or D. Other nations face the same challenges – but do better at attracting, supporting and retaining effective teachers. What can the US learn from abroad?

To help answer that question, the Aspen Institute Education Program, based in Washington, DC, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, based in Paris, co-sponsored an international seminar to examine how eight different nations are working to strengthen teaching.

Lessons from Abroad: Teaching Policy to Improve Student Learning, a special report commissioned by the Aspen Institute and appearing as an insert in the February 14th  issue of Education Week, describes promising examples relevant to the United States education system. These include robust programs to attract and support new teachers in Switzerland and Japan; systematic support for established teachers to improve their teaching in Ontario Canada and Japan; and new approaches to career progression and pay for expert teachers in Singapore, England, and Sweden.

The report author, Lynn Olson, managing editor of special projects at Education Week, draws on the seminar deliberations and international examples and reflects on how the US might develop teacher career systems that progress in stages from novice to expert, with different expectations, responsibilities, and compensation at each stage. Recognizing that staying in one job or even one profession is increasingly rare, Olson also looks at how school systems can both encourage highly effective teachers to stay longer and make the best use of teachers who will be in the profession only a few years.

Many school districts and states are exploring new approaches to strengthening the teaching profession. In the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act, more attention to improving teacher quality is promised. This makes today an opportune time to learn from other nation’s successes. As former Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley states in the report, “my hope is that in this new year there will be a national conversation among leaders at all levels –members of congress, governors, state legislators, school board members, educators, and others – about effective federal, state, and local policies to foster and reward teaching excellence.

To read Lessons from Abroad: Teaching Policy to Improve Student Learning and for more information and research on international teaching policy, including profiles and analyses of teaching policies in the nations highlighted in the report, please visit the Aspen Institute website at

The Aspen Institute Education and Society Program provides an informed and neutral forum for education practitioners, researchers and policy leaders to engage in focused dialogue regarding their efforts to improve student achievement, and  to consider how public policy changes can affect progress. Through meetings, analysis, commissioned work and structured networks of policymakers  and practitioners, the Program for over 25 years has developed intellectual  frameworks on critical education issues that assist federal, state and local  policy makers working to improve American education.

The Aspen Institute, founded in 1950, is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering enlightened leadership and open-minded dialogue. Through seminars, policy programs, conferences and leadership development initiatives, the Institute and its international partners seek to promote nonpartisan inquiry and an appreciation for timeless values. The Institute is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has campuses in Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Its international network includes partner Aspen Institutes in Berlin, Rome, Lyon, Tokyo, New Delhi, and Bucharest, and leadership programs in Africa, Central America and India.

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