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Not So Elementary: Policy Brief

This policy brief accompanies the full Not So Elementary report by leading Australian researcher Ben Jensen to describe how high-performing countries ensure that their elementary teachers have strong content knowledge.

From leading Australian researcher Ben Jensen, Not So Elementary: Primary School Teacher Quality in High-Performing Systems gives new insights into a critical driver of the success of the world’s top-performing education systems—developing elementary teachers with deep content knowledge. This policy brief accompanies the full report.

These high-performing systems recognize that a strong foundation in the core subjects in the early grades increases the changes that all students will achieve at higher levels throughout their schooling. The report finds that teacher preparation in Finland, Japan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong builds deep understanding of the content being taught in elementary schools as well as how young students learn and understand that content—two essential components of highly effective teaching. The report also gives guidance on what the United States can learn from these systems to strengthen teaching in elementary schools.

High-performing countries ensure that their elementary teachers have strong content knowledge by focusing on the selection of teachers, content specializationinitial teacher education, and professional learning systems in their schools. These four policy levers, combined with a well-integrated and highly effective education system as a whole, serve as a powerful means of improving student learning.