Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's the teachers, stupid!

In contrast to last month's godawful article by James Surowiecki, the New Yorker's got a great article dated tomorrow by Malcolm Gladwell about the determinants of a good teacher. Basically he finds that predicting a teacher's effect on students' learning is impossible without observing them on the job, though it's very obvious when a teacher enters a classroom if they have the stuff or not. The article is a thinly-veiled but very compelling argument for loosening teachers' unions grips on hiring and firing processes, and if you skim through the annoying football subplot, is very much worth your time. As Gladwell puts it:

Teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree—and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before.

That means a lot of hiring, but more importantly, a lot of firing, which is something that public schools and their corporatist unions are not willing to do. But it explains why DC schools are funded as well as Sidwell Friends and still manage to fail in every way imaginable.

2 comments:

Anne Cleveland said...

What is wrong in the tax-supported school system is not the teachers,the text-books, the buildings, the buses,the parents, the unions,and all the many excuses used for the absence of education.These are all symptoms of an immoral system.
Its immoral because its based upon a system of thievery and legal plunder What is wrong is the immorality upon which the system is based. Its a socialistic school system. Thanks Anne Cleveland

Raționalitate said...

I guess that's one way of looking at it, but I prefer to advocate libertarian ideas not for ideological reasons, but for reasons of practicality. Sure, taxation is sort of theft, but it's a bit different in a lot of important ways that make it not obvious just from that fact that the resultant educational system is going to be bad. To prove that, you need some empirical facts, and that's what I'm trying to come up with.