The American education system has been falling behind for a while, and the reason is obvious: Teachers can't be fired. Recent studies have shown that teacher quality is one of the top predictors of a student’s success, write Evan Thomas and Pat Wingert in Newsweek. Yet education unions are so powerful that it’s nearly impossible to dismiss subpar teachers. Two or three years of service is enough to earn lifetime tenure in most states.
The number of strong teachers is falling. Women once had few other vocational options; today, greater opportunities for the best and brightest mean most teachers come from the bottom third of college-bound high school students. But change may be coming. Efforts to recruit and train better teachers are on the rise, the New York Times reports. And despite Democrats’ traditional alliance with teachers unions, the Obama administration has been fighting them, arguing, for example, for more charter schools. (Read more teachers' unions stories.)