According to this site at U.S. News and World report, the Top 50 national universities have a total enrollment - graduate and undergrad - of a little more than one million students. I'll take a ballpark guess that 2/3 of those are undergrads. Assume a somewhat even distribution over four years (yeah, because they all graduate on time... hee, hee); let's say it's roughly 150,000 graduates a year.
Now let's consider some information from the National Center for Education Information (p. viii):
There are 3.2 million public school teachers educating the nation’s 49.4 million children attending public PK-12 schools, according to the U.S. Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
In other words: if we restricted teachers to only those who attend the top 50 colleges and universities in the country, we would pretty much have to make every graduate a teacher to meet our current demand.NCES Schools and Staffing Surveys also show that, in 2007-08 (the latest year for which these data are published), about 146,500 of these teachers (4.3 percent) were new hires who had never taught before – 92,500 were new college graduates and 54,000 were “delayed entrants (people who had a college degree but had not entered teaching right out of college). SASS [emphasis mine]
Now, there is a lot of churn in the profession; it's commonly accepted that 50% of teachers leave within five years (Matt DiCarlo makes a very good case that we should look at that statistic with some suspicion; nonetheless, he does concede teacher turnover is a "serious problem"). And it may be that the turnover rate would decrease if we recruited from elite colleges. Maybe we'd only need half of the elite college graduates to teach...
Does that sound reasonable to you? 50% of all these graduates go into teaching? How about 10% of graduates from the top elite colleges? 5%? We will need some doctors and engineers and artists and business executives as well, won't we?
I don't know how many of our elite college graduates we should expect to become educators, but I do know we're not going to get our teacher corps primarily from the top 50 or top 100 or maybe even the top 200 colleges and universities; the demand is just too high. As Diane Ravitch says in The Death and Life Of The Great American School System (p.191):
We should applaud the idealism of young people from our finest universities who want to devote two or three years to teaching. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of new teachers will not be drawn from from elite institutions but will continue to come from state universities, where the quality of their education will determine their ability to improve the education of the next generation.Those who push Teach For America so hard should stop and think about this.