Continuous education is a challenge in the U.S.

Only 35% of teachers take courses in universities, says survey

SAO PAULO—June 9, 2009—To accommodate the time in classroom with the time necessary to learn to teach is one of the major challenges faced by teachers. This is pointed out in a survey carried out in March by the University of Stanford and the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) in the U.S. that identified an average of 3 to 5 hours among the U.S. teachers to plan their classes. In European and Asian countries, the time for this function varies between 15 and 20 hours per week.

The study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MetLife Foundation, NSDC and Wallace Foundation was performed based on a survey carried out between 2003 and 2004 by the National Education Statistic Center, Schools and Staff with more than 130 thousand teachers of public and private U.S. schools. In addition, information from an evaluation inventory of the NSDC applied in 2007 and 2008 to more than 150 thousand teachers were also analyzed.

The survey examined teachers’ educational background nationwide as well as in relation to countries with good levels in evaluations such as Pisa (International Program of Students Evaluation). The executive director of the NSDC, Stephanie Hirsh, mentions that one of these countries differentiation is the national policies to support teachers.

In the U.S., actions are taken in state level with variations in results. While in Texas only 15% of the teachers participate in courses in universities, in Idaho the percentage is 79%. The national participation average is 35%.

When the State is committed to the education of teachers, it can systematize and support them. There’s nothing that can not be done. It is just a matter of priority, says Stephanie.

The researcher points Japan as example. Japanese teachers have time to develop wonderful lessons with their colleagues. This is what I’d like to see as priority in the State: teachers with time to learn together, she says.

Nine in ten American teachers participate in improvement activities. About 57%, however, receive less than 16 training hours in areas of interest. Data also point to improvement. More than 68% of public school teachers participate in integration programs in the first year of teaching; 71% with some type of tutor.


In the United States, in addition to graduation it is obligatory to pass an exam to be able to teach. Stephanie considers the exam only a guarantee. There are several ways to select good teachers, but we need to ensure that they continue to learn and to improve their practices along their career, she explains.

According to the director of the Walden University, Jonathan Kaplan, the states encourage teachers to continue their studies. Governments usually give a higher salary to those who improve their education, he says.