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.