seniority & nepotism

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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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43 Responses

  1. Avatar Sam M says:

    Not sure if this is place to post this, or if the last comment is, but here goes:

    What if maybe teaching shouldn’t be a career? What if people moved through it like other place-holder prfoessions?

    From what I am gathering through this discussion, there seems to be little if any provable correlation betwen length of service and quality. In fact, I know a lot of teachers who admit to burning out after their first 10 years or so. Well, some other jobs are like that. You don’t see a lot of 65-year-old bartenders or NFL quarterbacks or paratroopers. These are jobs we typically reserve for young people.

    I know this would take a lot of adjustments. And the truly GREAT teachers, the people dedicated to developing new pedagogies for instance, could stick around and direct the staff, kind of like maitre d’s and non-commissioned officers and coaches, given the above examples. Of those, a few might join the officer corps and become principles and administrators.

    The rest of the teachers who duck out when they are 26 or 30? Well, it is becoming far more common to finally settle in a new career at that age. This would open up the profession to “new ideas.” It would help weed out the truly bad teachers. It would make it less shameful for the people who are burnt-out to move on. It would open up the ranks to retirees and second-career types.

    Again, yes, we lose a lot of our older teachers. But we all admit we have no idea if older teachers are better. So?

    No one really gets to leave college and have one secure job forever anymore. Why should teachers be different?

    Just thinking out loud.Report

    • Avatar Travis in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M, you’re again ignoring the fact that we require teachers to focus their entire post-secondary academic program on becoming a teacher, at their own expense.

      It doesn’t take a four or five-year academic commitment to become a bartender. Paratroopers get paid a full salary throughout training. NFL-bound quarterbacks get athletic scholarships at major universities. Teachers… get tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. One of these things is not like the other.

      So yes, we could say teaching is not a career. But then who’s going to go through the time and expense of learning how to teach?Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Travis says:

        @Travis,

        Sam:

        I agree with Travis, and would add this as well: It seems to me that effective teaching is a learned skill rather than an absence of action in another career.

        I’ve often heard it said that teaching was best in this country when for half of the population, teaching was what you did if you were the best and the brightest. That may or may not be so, but it rings true enough. My concern with your idea, which I must confess to liking on an emotional level (I would love to do something like that myself), is that it moves us farther away from that old ideal. In other words, a greater reliance on warm willing temporary bodies and not on taking the time to learn the skills and craft of effective teaching.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to RTod says:

          @RTod, “I’ve often heard it said that teaching was best in this country when for half of the population, teaching was what you did if you were the best and the brightest. That may or may not be so, but it rings true enough.”

          Reasonable. I’ve heard a discussion of Mad Men which stated that ad agencies in NYC were among the earlier non-teaching/nursing jobs which hired women for executive positions, and that they profited immensely.Report

      • Avatar Sam M in reply to Travis says:

        @Travis,

        But if we don’t know what a good teacher is or how to measure one or what one does, what in the world are we teaching them in education programs?

        Either way, I would be more than happy to get behind any policy that would reduce requirments, especially for elementary ed, and make it more like a minor rather than a major field of study.Report

        • Avatar Travis in reply to Sam M says:

          @Sam M, but how do you suppose doing that?

          Elementary ed is perhaps the field MOST needing specialized skills that don’t apply to other majors or jobs. You don’t need to know string-theory physics to teach basic principles of science in fourth grade, but you do need to know how to break down those basic principles so they’re comprehensible by kids at the fourth-grade level.

          And your statement above doesn’t make sense. Yes, it’s difficult to separate teacher performance from the million other variables impacting student learning. Your assertion that teacher education is useless does not logically follow.Report

          • Avatar Sam M in reply to Travis says:

            @Travis,

            If I had ever said that teacher education is useless, I might agree with you. But I never said that, so I don’t.

            What I said was, it seems pretty clear that nobody can really agree about what kids need to know. But let’s set that aside and assume that for some reason everyone comes to their senses and we find a way to agree on the skills and knowledge that amount to a “good education.” So now what? We aren’t all that much closer, because nobody can really agree on a pedagogical process that best conveys this infromation in ANY circumstances, much less ALL circumstances. But again, let’s set this aside and assume we agree on those process. How can we go ahead and measure whether this is really working? Guess what? Nobody knows.

            So we have a situation in which we cannot agree what teachers should teach, how they should teach it, or how to measure the results.

            Well, don’t worry about that! If you put teachers in the classroom for a lot of years, they get a “feel” for these things and students reap the benefits! Only… no they don’t. Or at least nobody seems to have any evidence in that regard.

            So, going back to teachers ed. Let’s say I am 20 year old guy in an ed program. I show up for the first day of class and I make a statement like, “Thank goodness I am here so I can find out what to teach and how to teach it.”

            The correct response to that statement would be… sorry. We actually don’t know what you should teach. And we have no idea how you should convey it. If we did, we would know, and we could measure how good you are as a teacher. But we don’t, and we can’t.

            Forgive me for thinking that such a curriculum should be handled as a minor.

            Look. I taught creative writing at the college level for four years. It’s ridiculous to have creative writing as a major. It’s too subjective and it’s too hard to measure. I can admit that about my own field. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important. It’s that i don’t think it justifies a major course of study.

            I know people who majored in elementary ed in college. They still laugh about what a joke it was. Some of the stuff was really important. How much? They say maybe 20 percent.Report

            • Avatar Travis in reply to Sam M says:

              @Sam M, the plural of anecdote is not data.

              “We actually don’t know what you should teach. And we have no idea how you should convey it. If we did, we would know, and we could measure how good you are as a teacher. But we don’t, and we can’t.”

              Who says we don’t know what you should teach, nor have an idea of how to convey it? If that were the case, why would teacher’s education programs exist at thousands of universities across the country? Gee, why don’t you blow the lid off this giant scam perpetrated on the American people?

              As has been noted repeatedly, the problem is that it’s very difficult to separate how well a teacher teaches from the myriad of other factors affecting student performance. It does not logically follow that teachers are irrelevant.Report

              • Avatar Sam M in reply to Travis says:

                @Travis,

                “If that were the case, why would teacher’s education programs exist at thousands of universities across the country?”

                Are you serious? Why do we keep seeing the addition of creative writing MFA’s across the country? Because of a demonstrated need and a demonstrated capacity to improve the general level of literary excellence in America? Why do you need a license to braid hair, and academic programs to train people to do so? Are you seriously arguing that the mere existence of a vast institutional framework and an intellectual foundation for same is solid evidence for the merit of that institutional framework? If so, I guess I should probably reverse my position on ag subsidies and the military industrial complex.

                “It does not logically follow that teachers are irrelevant.”

                You keep saying this, but it coninues to be a straw man. I am not saying teachers are irrelevant. I never said so. You can cast my argument in those terms all you want, but it’s not what I am saying.

                Some teachers are better than others. What makes them better? You seem to know. So… tell us, please. Make a list. That way, we can put this merit-based question to rest. Forget testing. Once we know what makes a good teacher, we can set up video cameras in classrooms across the country. You can sit on the blue-ribbon panel that watches the videos and reviews and other documents you need to see and score them. The higher they score, the more they get paid.Report

              • Avatar Travis in reply to Travis says:

                No, I don’t know what makes them better. I’m a journalist, not a pedagogical specialist.

                But what you’re asserting — that the entire academic infrastructure supporting teacher education is a fraud and we really have no idea what we’re doing — is an extraordinary claim that requires evidence with far more substance than “some of my friends said it was worthless.” That, and specious comparisons with also-allegedly-worthless MFA programs, is all you’ve had to offer.

                So pardon me if I don’t accept your conspiracy theory.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Travis says:

                @Travis, dismiss my experiences as you like, my experiences in the College of Education (I took the coursework for an education minor) validated a whole lot of what people say about Colleges of Education.

                I do agree with you and disagree with Sam about Elementary Ed, though. I think for primary education, teachers need to be educated in areas like child psychology and instruction. However, for secondary education, I’m with Sam that more emphasis should be on subject matter rather than educational technique.Report

              • Avatar Sam M in reply to Travis says:

                @Travis,

                “that the entire academic infrastructure supporting teacher education is a fraud and we really have no idea what we’re doing — is an extraordinary claim that requires evidence”

                I never siad the whole thing was a fraud. What i said was, I see plenty of room for an academic pursuit of such a degree, but see no evidence that it can’t be handled as a minor. And that people who are interested enough in the field to become administrators or lead teachers might well benefit from further study. How does that amount to saying the whole thing is a fraud?

                But what really DOES require some evidence is the idea that you DO know what you are doing. You know, like some consensus on what a good teacher does and how to measure it. The whole point of this original discussion is… NOBODY KNOWS. There seems to be know way of measuring teachers based on merit. That is, we have no way of assessing who is a good teacher or what one does. Does that fact offer NO reason to pause and wonder what people are teaching in ed colleges if… nobody knows what a good teacher does or how to define one or what aspects of success or failure are actually do to immeasurable outside forces? We should just say, well, they are the experts! They wouldn’t be running colleges if they weren’t!Report

    • Avatar Lisa Kramer in reply to Sam M says:

      @Sam M, I’m not entirely opposed to the idea of recruiting teachers from a non-educational background, but I disagree with the underlying assumption that young teachers (and new teachers) are – by virtue of their youth – better than older, more experienced teachers. While many young teachers are very energetic and innovative, many others are realizing that they got in way over their heads and are unprepared for even controlling a classroom, let alone educating the students. I’ve known plenty of first-year teachers who were already burned out and plenty of long-term teachers who felt they were just starting to get the hang of it.

      I do like your recommendation that the profession should be opened up to retirees and second-career types. I think this can be done without turning the teaching profession into one giant Americorps project for recent college grads.Report

      • Avatar Sam M in reply to Lisa Kramer says:

        @Lisa Kramer,

        I did not mean to say that:

        “young teachers (and new teachers) are – by virtue of their youth – better than older, more experienced teachers.”

        Rather, it appears to be the case that nobody can correlate experience with quality. So at the very least, we CANNOT say that older is better. As such, any policies that are aimed at keeping people in the profession for the long haul might be, at the very least, misguided.

        Now, if there is some evidence that teachers with 20 years of experience are better than teachers with two years of experience, that changes everything. I am simply unaware of any such evidence.Report

        • Avatar Travis in reply to Sam M says:

          @Sam M, even if there is zero correlation between longevity and performance, there is certainly a case to be made for policies that encourage retention. Hiring an endless stream of new teachers off the street is not a zero-cost idea. You’d have to be just like the military — spend billions of dollars every year on advertising to recruit large numbers of people to take short-term teaching jobs. HR/administrative costs would go through the roof.Report

  2. Avatar gregiank says:

    One thing i have never been completely clear on is why does anybody think merit pay will make any difference. Getting rid of bad teachers is obvious, but why will merit pay change education? If a person is a great teacher then they have intrinsic motivation and will likely be a good teacher regardless of whether they get a bigger raise then others. If someone is an average teacher are they really going to suddenly be so much more motivated? Maybe they are just an average teacher. I can certainly see how money is a motivator but it is foolish to see people as solely motivated by money.Report

    • Avatar Bull E in reply to gregiank says:

      @gregiank, The increase in pay for skilled teachers will keep them teaching. If someone is great at their job (i.e. they posses certain skills, some of which are transferable) they must have an incentive to stay where they are. The best teachers are most likely good at other things, so in order to keep them teaching and not selling CDOs on Wall St they should be compensated better than the teacher who doesn’t posses the skills to move to a better job.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Bull E says:

        @Bull E, I think this is more of an issue for subject-matter rather than teacher skill. A mediocre science teacher is more likely to have better options than the best English Lit teacher. If the goal is to prevent them from going into the private sector, I’m not sure that paying the best teachers more is the best way of going about it.Report

  3. There’s not much in this I disagree with. I hadn’t intended my argument to come off as suggesting that since there are no “true” factors in measuring success, we should chuck all attempts and just default to seniority alone. Rather, I was observing that even students who graduate from high-performing schools with objectively top-notch teachers are often poorly educated in ways that are truly valuable to them – and their communities – long-term. Honestly, my preference would be to reform teacher training to broaden the educational mission before we end up with successive generations of David Brooks’ “Organization Kids.” Once we can determine what we expect out of teachers, THEN we can make decisions about good teachers, bad teachers, seniority and merit.

    As for my more general comments on seniority – that was actually a completely separate thought process that you happened to touch on coincidentally in relation to public schools. I took note of it only because I’ve been trying to get someone – ANYONE – this week to say that seniority mattered in any profession.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Lisa Kramer says:

      @Lisa Kramer,
      “I took note of it only because I’ve been trying to get someone – ANYONE – this week to say that seniority mattered in any profession.”

      A good point (since it so obviously and almost universally does), but I would go one more step and ask if it SHOULD matter in any profession.

      In every place I’ve ever worked that has been large enough to employ some level of bureaucracy (all have been private-sector employers) this concept is treated as a given. But the older (and more senior!) I get, the more it seems to be a copout to doing thoughtful evaluation. Seniority just doesn’t equate with job performance in any place I’ve ever worked, either positively or negatively. Often I will hear someone point to a great performer who has been at her job a long time and say it is their experience that has helped them achieve their level of decision making skills. And that’s usually true with the type of person that such things are said about. But there are always other examples of equally tenured people, often in the same department, who have logged the same amount of time but are terrible at most or all functions of their job. Likewise, I have seen “green” team members bring a new way of looking at things that leads to amazing results – and also newbies that take forever to learn enough of the ropes to not be utterly useless.

      I suspect that the reason that seniority is so valued in corporate and government policies and procedures is that it is the people with seniority who decide in advance what to value most when the chips are down.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Lisa Kramer says:

      @Lisa Kramer, I know – I didn’t mean to imply that was your argument specifically. I was simply clarifying my own less than clear thoughts on the matter.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Is it really possible to grade a student? Really? Isn’t “learning” something that is impossible to quantify with something as silly as a letter (or even a number) grade?

    Oh, it is? Well then.

    Is it really possible to grade a teacher? Really?Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird,

      Sure it’s possible to grade a student. The student has several deliverables, each one (at least theoretically) tied to demonstrating the absorption of some of the material. The grade is a composite metric.

      The method of designing, collecting, and evaluating these deliverables is dependent upon the subject taught, and (hopefully) the particular efficiencies of the teaching style of the teacher, and the particular inefficiencies of the current group of students. You can’t teach 30 kids the same way, and you can’t teach this year’s 30 kids the same way you taught last year’s 30 kids.

      This doesn’t have anything to do with how easy (or not) it is to measure a teacher’s performance.

      Put another way, you don’t measure a line worker’s performance in a factory the same way you do the performance of the manager of the line worker, or the way you measure the performance of the salesperson who sells the stuff they make, or the performance of the accounting department that pays the bills or collects the payment.

      The question is, is the measurement a sort that can be assembled in a fashion that is itself efficient enough to warrant the expenditure of gathering the measurement itself, given the advantages you get out of having the measurement?

      This is a very common problem in technology. Audit increases overhead. The more audit you have, the less likely it is that a system can be exploited. But if the system is not likely to be exploited to begin with, it’s far less efficient to audit with the assumption that it might be.

      Enumerating badness everywhere (in the technology domain) is hard. So don’t bother. Instead, break your systems down by class, and choose the audit/monitoring combination that best fits the class.

      In the case of the student, you have to measure their success, that’s part and parcel with the job. In the case of the teacher, you don’t. Unless you assume a priori that their compensation needs to be tied to their performance. That only follows if the incentives work for producing the desired outcomes (and that isn’t likely, in this area, as I pointed out above).

      So only run audit on the teachers who are likely to be problems, and get rid of them if they fail.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

        @Pat Cahalan,
        Put another way, you don’t measure a line worker’s performance in a factory the same way you do the performance of the manager of the line worker, or the way you measure the performance of the salesperson who sells the stuff they make, or the performance of the accounting department that pays the bills or collects the payment.

        But a lot of places do measure manages on the aggregate of the performance of their staff. This is a bit easier to do with managers than with teachers cause managers get some say in letting the bad line-workers go and teachers don’t get to choose their classes.

        That’s not to say that I disagree with the main thrust of your comment. I think I’m on the same page.

        I do think, however, that we should “grade” schools as a whole (adjusted for the demographics of the student body). Individual teachers’ have (I think) too small a sample set. Schools less so.Report

        • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Trumwill says:

          @Trumwill,

          Oh, I agree we should grade schools as a whole, if for no other reason it’s a lot easier to provide a meaningful evaluation of something that big and it’s generally going to be much cheaper. That’s an information hiding efficiency.

          Plus, it’s important for the local populace to know that their schools suck (or not).

          That’s orthogonal to the question of merit pay, though. I would be adverse to paying individual teachers based upon overall school performance; there’s too many factors outside the teacher’s control, for one thing.

          Unless of course you compensate via other methods, but then we’re moving lots of dependent variables around and things get muddled unless you start the whole conversation over 😉Report

          • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

            @Pat Cahalan, sounds like we are pretty much on the same page after all. I agree on merit pay. At least based on student performance as defined by a test (though I’m not anti-test). I’m more flexible on giving administrators flexibility on paying more to keep good teachers teaching (or teaching at their schools, at any rate).Report

  5. One of the main arguments against merit pay is pretty well laid out here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

    Apologies for the lack of citations in the summary (I’ll dig up the source materials if anyone’s interested in reading the original studies, I know that’s a pet peeve of mine).

    Mastery, that’s an incentive for teachers (they typically have ongoing chances to learn, themselves). Challenge, that goes without saying. Autonomy, yeah, that not so much.

    Pay does come into it in many school districts, because they’re violating the primal root law: “pay them enough to take money off the table”.

    And this is typically why teachers are so adamantly opposed to merit pay. Not because they’re trying to dodge responsibility (although this certainly is the case for a subset of them), but because merit pay schemes, as currently presented, require giving up the tiny bit of autonomy that they actually have. And (probably) teachers are at least subliminally aware that the idea of rewarding merit via $$ probably won’t actually have the outcome it intends to encourage.

    @ E.D.

    > All that being said, it strikes me as rather unimaginative
    > for us to simply say “We can’t measure success because
    > it’s so complicated, let’s just base everything on length
    > of service.”

    Yes, that would be pretty unimaginative. We *can*, actually, measure success, it’s just expensive and difficult to do so in a meaningful way that can then be turned around and aligned in such a way that the metric, itself, can be used for a merit-pay-based incentive structure (which, again, probably won’t work anyway).

    (It seems eminently plausible, given the generally lower amounts of pay, that one of the reasons why charter schools and magnates appear to be more successful is that they actually have increased autonomy. Increase the autonomy, you get better outcomes.)

    Of course, *none* of that is an argument against having a reasonable method for discharging a substandard employee, and this is something that should just become part and parcel of the union negotiation contract with the school district. You want to serve LAUSD? Fine, tell us what the process is for rejecting a teacher. If I was running the district, this would be my personal #1 focus.

    It seems to me that the best way to solve this problem is to turn it on its head. Don’t try and measure the top or even the average performers. Start with default autonomy. They’re trained, give them the latitude to try stuff (this will also foster innovation).

    Measuring everybody is expensive to do correctly, yes? So don’t do it by default.

    Instead, measure the *low* performers. Devise a metric for “your class is underperforming. It’s likely that you suck. We will monitor this, and if the suckage doesn’t start resolving itself, you’re outta here.”

    Give a framework whereby parents, administrators, other teachers, etc., can flag teachers as substandard. *Then* call in the measurement brigade. Two members of the union, a cognitive psychologist and a developmental psychologist underwritten by the district, and a member of the PTA. If the teacher fails the audit, they get kaiboshed.

    Now you’ve changed the whole game. You pay teachers enough to take money off the table. You provide the incentive of allowing them to do their jobs by default. Let ’em do their thing. You don’t audit success, you audit failure.

    Since audit, by its very nature, is overhead, you have a much more efficient system, since the teachers that you’re auditing are those that are already marked as possible problems, instead of default assuming that every teacher is a possible problem.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Pat Cahalan says:

      @Pat Cahalan, I like some of these ideas (though the more I read, the more I think we may disagree on some fundamentals). One of the things that I would like to see is an opt-in, opt-out testing regime. If a local population is not worried about how their school is doing because the proof is in the pudding (they see their kids getting educated) then they can vote to skip testing that might diminish their current success. However, if they are concerned, they can have their concerns validated.

      It would be important, though, that this be decided by the local population. I don’t trust the superintendent to decide whether or not he wants his district to be graded.Report

      • Avatar RTod in reply to Trumwill says:

        @Trumwill,
        Just to throw a monkey in the works, then, if a local community decided that science standards such as biology, geology, astronomy, etc. were obviously flawed due the the 6000-year age of the cosmos and should be junked, is that an acceptable outcome?Report

        • Avatar Trumwill in reply to RTod says:

          @RTod, that wouldn’t really be a problem because the recourse would be standardized testing which would include real science.

          But I get where you’re going with this. If an area decided that it wanted to teach Intelligent Design (Biblical Creationism being problematic with the first amendment) instead of evolution and chose to sidestep standardized testing for fear that it would conflict with the curriculum… yeah, that would be an acceptable outcome for me. I just wouldn’t move there or I would send my kids to private school, charter school, or home school.Report

  6. Avatar Brett says:

    Such tenacity might be a sign of a very good teacher, loyal to her school and her students, or it might be a sign of a broken system.

    Or of a mediocre teacher who knows how to dot the i’s and follow the rules.

    One idea I’ve had is making the administrator more accountable for his schools’ success, and making the community more responsible for how that success is measured.

    You’re just concentrating more power in the hands of the administrators, when that is one of the biggest problems with the current system. Teachers often have no say over almost anything anymore – their curricula, their methods – and so forth.Report

  7. Avatar Simon K says:

    I guess I don’t believe in pay by either merit or seniority according to any pre-ordained system that requires measurements. I’d prefer to allow head teachers to pay their staff what they thought they were worth, and then make sure they were accountable to parents, pupils and tax payers for the results and budget. Why is this not acceptable?Report

  8. Avatar Barry says:

    “(It seems eminently plausible, given the generally lower amounts of pay, that one of the reasons why charter schools and magnates appear to be more successful is that they actually have increased autonomy. Increase the autonomy, you get better outcomes.)”

    They are more successful? Last I heard, the record was mixed, at best.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Barry says:

      @Barry, They’re very popular with parents who send their children to them. That’s at least one important kind of success. Their students don’t necessarily do any better on exams, but that isn’t always even their goal.Report

    • Avatar Chad in reply to Barry says:

      @Barry, Mixed is probably the best way to put it. Here in Toledo, we’ve got public school alternatives out the wazoo. However, there is some of anger at charter schools because most of them aren’t performing well and they still take taxpayer dollars. The way they are constantly popping up in various abandoned buildings almost makes it look like some sort of scam being played on the city.

      At the same time, two of the most successful schools in the city are charter schools. BUT – one is an arts school and one is a tech school. The students are there because they want to be there. And because they’ve gotten enough of a reputation that they have waiting lists to get in, they can kick kids out who aren’t performing well. This is good for the kids, but is it good for the city?Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Barry says:

      @Barry,

      Oh, sure, sorry that was badly clarified above. Apologies 🙂

      I should have said, “when they appear to be successful, charter/magnate schools can probably attribute some if not most of that success to teacher autonomy.”Report

  9. Avatar Kaleberg says:

    Does anyone else remember the 1980s when Japan was going to rule the world and the U.S. was going to be part of its co-prosperity sphere? The Japanese were eating our lunch based on a no-fire management approach. If you were hired, you had a job with that company for life. If you didn’t work out, you got an office by the window, that is, they moved you out of any real responsibility, and your promotion opportunities vanished, but you still had a job. In the U.S. we only do this with high level managers.

    I don’t think this is necessarily a great model, but I’ve never seen any evidence that our schools’ performance problems are because it is impossible to fire ineffective teachers. Charter schools can usually fire teachers more easily than public schools, but they don’t teach any better for it. Even in New York City where it is notoriously hard to fire teachers, an awful lot of the problems can be traced to unstable home lives, uneducated parents, drug addicts in the family, frequent moves due to a marginal housing situation, the lure of the streets and other problems. Sure, I think it would be great to get more of those teachers out of the “rubber rooms” as they call teacher limbo in NYC. It would free up some resources, but it isn’t going to solve the real problem.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill in reply to Kaleberg says:

      @Kaleberg, I wonder if there is an inherent need on the part of people (both liberal and conservative) to believe that (with the exception of the rare outlier) the quality of teachers really makes a difference.

      I don’t like science. I had a great chemistry teacher in the 11th grade. He made learning the stuff… tolerable (I don’t like science). I learned it. I got a B. By college, I had forgotten it. I had a terrible physics teacher in the 12th grade. I got a B. By college, I had forgotten it.

      But conservatives need to believe it so that they can give teacher’s less job protections to fire the bad ones. Liberals need to believe it so that they can justify paying teachers more (and raising the funds to do so). People that aren’t liberals and aren’t conservatives need to believe it because it sure seems that with a job so important the quality of personnel holding the job must be important, too.

      I’m not sure we (I act as though teacher quality is important, too) are wrong. I’m not sure we’re right, either.Report

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