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Do Teachers Really Come From The "Bottom Third" Of College Graduates?

Comments This is the beginning of privatization of public education

I think this discussion is somewhat absurd. You are talking about college graduates. What is the percentage of college graduates in the country? Maybe 25 percent? So they are arguing about what proportion of the top 25 percent of the population go into education. Maybe it is just me, but I want the top college graduates designing the airplanes I'm flying in, or developing safeguards for nuclear reactors, or learning heart surgery, or doing any number of critical professions that I might depend on. Somebody explain to me why we need some esoteric egghead teaching third graders to multiply. Teaching is a very demanding and creative endeavor that mostly requires the ability to form relationships with children and encourage their endeavors. Certainly it helps to comprehend the content being taught but the true value of education is developing the people skills of children, their ability to relate to others and to exercise critical thinking skills to understand the world around them. These are generally much more wholistic skills than the analytical skills of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Read any of the instruction manuals for technology you buy written by technology people. Duh. People skills in nearly all professions are not correlated with analytical skills. But we are still talking about an elite ability among an elite proportion of the population. And you are also talking about a much larger population of professionals in teachers than in engineers or mathematicians. If you are hiring 50,000 teachers and 5,000 engineers each year, which can you afford to offer higher salaries to? Even if all teachers came from the bottom fourth of the top fourth of the population, it would still make teachers an elite workforce. This discussion is absurd. IMHO.

A lot of research is discussed here:

I would suggest that most individuals with a genuine desire to impart knowledge, think independently, and having the ability to communicate effectively, could excel in an education environment. Our "education problem" is really quite simple. We have turned our schools over to the progressives and unions who use the education system to promote their own liberal agendas and corrupt values.

Thanks for the analysis, Matt. The claim is often made (usually by opponents of the current ed reform movement) that in Finland, all teachers come from the top third of their college classes (in fact, I attended a speech recently from Diane Ravitch, where she asserted that they come from the top 10%). Do you know what evidence backs that up, and whether the same methodology could be applied to the U.S. teaching force to see how we compare? Your point in the last paragraph about *how* to attract high-achieving students to enter the teaching profession in the U.S. is key - would love to see more research & analysis on that.

I can't speak for everyone, but I graduated in the top ten percent of my graduating class (Cum Laude). BOTH times (Undergrad and Masters).

I don't feel they should base the quality of teachers on their SAT or ACT scores. There are many people out there who are not great test takers. I am one of them. I had a 790 COMBINED on the SAT, and not much better on the ACT (19). I graduated with my bachelors with a 3.09 GPA, all done while my mother was terminally ill. She passed away my senior year of college. I completed my Master's degree with a 4.0 in curriculum and instruction, and I just finished my CAS with a 3.7. I am a firm believer that there are people who are meant to teach, and those who are not. Just because someone does not graduate in the top 10% of their class does not mean they are not cut out for teaching.

Teaching is an art, not a science. Smart, creative and funny people make great teachers. Period.

What gets lost in most of the discussion of what teachers need to exemplify in terms of test scores and grades is the fact that the qualities required for teaching differ dramatically depending on what grade level or content area are being discussed. Qualities like cultural competence, ability to relate meaningfully to students, integrity, and a host of others seem not be in the picture. What is required to be a high school chemistry teacher is quite different from that of a shop teacher or special educator. Pre-school teachers have different skill requirements than middle-school or high school teachers. Boiling it down to attracting candidates with high test scores or grades eliminates considerable untapped talents and skills.

I am skeptical of defining a "high quality" teaching workforce as those who graduated from elite universities and had high test scores on standardized tests such as SATs/ACTs. There seems to be a hidden classism and racism in this definition as Ivy League schools continue to accept far too few minority students from low-income backgrounds. Also, aren't test scores highly correlated with family background? Are these "bottom-third" teachers actually the first person to go to college in their families? Are they the students who excelled in high school, but were in a struggling school where success in terms of raw score is lower? Did their scores suffer because they did not take the expensive Kaplan courses? Could they not afford the elite universities? It seems to me that education "reformer's" complaint about teacher quality is a way of putting more economically and socially advantaged young people, the Teach-for-America types, into classrooms. Frankly, given the choice, I'd rather have a teacher from the school's neighborhood or at least city, someone who understands the daily lives of their students in a profound way, in that position than some young "top-of-their-class" elite white teacher. The Grow Your Own teacher program comes to mind: . Also, the current wave of teacher quality reforms has affected a disproportionate number of minority teachers. What does that tell us? I'm not sure that Finland, with its more homogeneous society, greater equal access to top-notch educational opportunities, and lower poverty rates is what we should be comparing ourselves to in terms of teacher quality. I appreciate that this post challenges the "top-third" argument in terms of the numbers. I'd like us to go further and redefine the actual definition of what a great teacher is. Perhaps a "top-notch" teacher in the US looks a whole lot different than the "top-third" of the class type. Oh, and I scored in the 90% percentiles in both the ACTs and SATs and graduated college and graduate school with honors. But then again, I am from the affluent North Shore of Chicago, so maybe that's not saying much...



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