McKinsey & Company recently released a thought provoking report (the link takes you to the summary; a full report can be downloaded from the site) examining the degree to which it may benefit American education to adopt a strategy for fostering teacher effectiveness by focusing less on the barrel, and more on the tree: that is, to place a systemic emphasis on attracting young people with the strongest academic background into the profession.

This is a strategy employed by most of the U.S.’s “aspirational peers” when it comes to primary and secondary education, including Singapore, South Korea, and Finland. These systems have adopted a systemic commitment to recruiting, attracting and retaining a critical mass of the top academic talent from their universities into teaching. By comparison, less than 25% of new teachers in the U.S. come from the top third.

The report examines the American public sector, but it stands to reason that at least some of it can be translated to K-12 Catholic schools.  That is, while ventures such as Notre Dame’s ACE Program, Boston College’s Urban Catholic Teacher’s Corp, Loyola Marymount’s PLACE Corps, and the rest of the community of Catholic higher education programs known as the University Consortium for Catholic Education have done extraordinary work to place top tier talent into our Catholic school classrooms, should we make a broader systemic effort to attract the very best and brightest to staff these schools? In some ways, that’s the easy question.  The hard one is, how?

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