Duncan Asks: How Do We Improve the Teaching Profession?

Melinda Treadwell, the dean of professional and graduate studies, and Secretary Duncan lead a conversation with current and prospective teachers at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

Melinda Treadwell, the dean of professional and graduate studies, and Secretary Duncan lead a conversation with current and prospective teachers at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

Imagine you’re a studying to be a teacher, and on the first day of the new semester, the U.S. Secretary of Education arrives to ask your opinions about the future of the teaching profession.

That’s what happened at Keene State College in New Hampshire on Monday’s evening stop on the “Courage in the Classroom” bus tour.

During the discussion, Secretary Duncan had more questions than answers for the class of that included undergraduates preparing to be teachers and current teachers working toward a master’s degree.

How do we recruit one million new teachers over the next four years?

How do we retain them in the profession?

How do we improve the way we prepare teachers?

Will better preparation programs lead to higher retention rates because teachers feel better prepared for success in the classroom?

One current teacher said that teacher preparation programs should focus on classroom-based experiences rather than philosophical discussions.

So many of a teacher’s daily tasks—such as managing a classroom, working with parents, and planning lessons—are best learned by doing the work yourself or watching an experienced professional, said Denis Jobin, who teaches English learners in Milford, N.H.

“You can talk about those things, but it’s interactive to learn them,” Jobin said.

Secretary Duncan agreed that teacher colleges need to find ways to integrate real-life teaching experiences into their preparation programs.

But he believes that the larger challenge is to improve the status of the profession so that teachers feel respected and valued.

“Teaching must be a much more revered profession,” he told the group. “Teachers haven’t been revered for a while.”

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  1. Thanks for posting this.The teacher was controlling who comes out to the front and puts their piece up. Working together is where the teacher facilitates, but lets the students work things out together (with very little teacher input). Good idea for an activity though!

  2. I am amazed that I hear no talk about the research based practices that support teacher improvement in the classroom. Reflective practice is of the utmost importance as any national board certified teacher will tell you yet I hear no national movement to embed good reflective practices in the teaching day. Secondly, we hear how bad teachers need to go, yet we never address the training, mentoring, and support that all teachers need in order to succeed in the classroom. Too often we throw idealistic and energetic teachers into the deep end, weight their ankles and yell, “Swim harder” and “oh by the way, you will never afford a hours on the salary we will give you!” Instructional coaching, and professional collaboration are key. I look forward to a national discussion on these practices. I also look forward to a doubling (tripling?) of teacher salaries.

  3. I think teachers need to be respected as the professionals that they are. We need to change the idea that “Those who can’t, teach.” Those who can were taught by a teacher. Going through classes and certifications is not the only thing that makes a teacher. It takes a very unique individual to be a teacher. It is also like a calling. They should have smaller class sizes and more independence to do their job. Teachers have to do what is told to them from the top down. Teachers should be more instrumental is determing what happens in the classroom. When setting educational standards, we need to set standard tools. Every teacher should teach in a school that is state of the art. It should not be limited to certain neighborhoods, or special schools. Each school should be an innovation zone. Also so called specials, should be a separate budget item and every school should have all specials regardless of the student population.

  4. How about creating a new position in our schools whose primary responsibiity is to manage academic affairs (e.g. curriculum, instruction, standards, teacher readiness in subject and pedagogical content, etc.), similar to what we have in most colleges and universities? No wonder why our high ed institutions are among the top in the world. It is true that there are chief academic officers in our public school system, but perhaps having a system of administration where we have a principal who is in charge of everything and two assistant or vice princiapls (one for academic affairs and the other for non-academic) is a creative way forward. Just a thought!

  5. We need smaller class sizes! 22 students or more in a classroom is too many for one person to reach! Think of a business that has managers, do they manage 22 people and make an impact every day – no! Discipline is a HUGE issue for teachers and the lack of support makes many teachers leave the profesion. Smaller Class Size, No-Tolerance Behavior and better pay!

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