“The right way to think about teacher compensation, I think, is this. You could have a system in which all teachers are paid the same amount. But we don’t have that system. Instead we have a system where veteran teachers are paid much more than novice teachers, and teachers with master’s degrees are paid more than teachers without master’s degrees. We could switch this to a system where teachers whose kids do much worse than average on value-added measures get fired, and teachers whose kids to much better than average get paid more than average teachers. The idea here wouldn’t so much be to create an “incentive” as simply to ensure that the best teachers aren’t tempted to leave the profession while the worst teachers are encouraged to do so. If you want to do something through a bonus/incentive mechanism, what would make sense is to offer teachers extra money to take on challenging assignments in high poverty schools.” — Matthew Yglesias
Archive for the 'Education' Category
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What a great response:
“If you want to know why teachers are being laid off in California (even if teaching has remained one of the most secure jobs nationwide) you might want to check out this new $578 million high school in LA Unified School District. As we’ve written before on JPGB, buildings don’t teach kids, people do. Given the way school districts squander their resources, maybe they’ll soon need another $26 billion in Edujobs from Congress (read: taxpayers).” — Jay P. Greene, Professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas
Many of my friends still innocently assume that the teachers union is really out to help the students, they have no real self interest in their own personal gain over those of students. Articles like this should remove them of such naive beliefs.
“In this article about college funding, Kevin Carey says something that I’ve long believed, which is that government-supported financial aid doesn’t quite work how you might imagine: colleges can just raise their prices along with any aid packages that come along. The price tag for college is not fixed, and so what looks like a subsidy for low-income students can just end up being a way for universities to jack up their prices by a corresponding amount.” — Andrew Gelman
Just as true in 1978 as it is today.
If you want to see how teachers union stand in the way of educational progress, read this New York Times article.
My favorite part of the article:
A building on 118th Street is one reason that the parents who are Perkins’s constituents know that charters can work. On one side there’s the Harlem Success Academy, a kindergarten-through-fourth-grade charter with 508 students. On the other side, there’s a regular public school, P.S. 149, with 438 pre-K to 8th-grade students. They are separated only by a fire door in the middle; they share a gym and cafeteria. School reformers would argue that the difference between the two demonstrates what happens when you remove three ingredients from public education — the union, big-system bureaucracy and low expectations for disadvantaged children.
Same buildings, same resources and in many cases, the same family. In fact, the charter school often has more students per teacher than the public school.
But while the public side spends more, it produces less. P.S. 149 is rated by the city as doing comparatively well in terms of student achievement and has improved since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took over the city’s schools in 2002 and appointed Joel Klein as chancellor. Nonetheless, its students are performing significantly behind the charter kids on the other side of the wall. To take one representative example, 51 percent of the third-grade students in the public school last year were reading at grade level, 49 percent were reading below grade level and none were reading above. In the charter, 72 percent were at grade level, 5 percent were reading below level and 23 percent were reading above level. In math, the charter third graders tied for top performing school in the state, surpassing such high-end public school districts as Scarsdale.
Same building. Same community. Sometimes even the same parents. And the classrooms have almost exactly the same number of students. In fact, the charter school averages a student or two more per class. This calculus challenges the teachers unions’ and Perkins’s “resources” argument — that hiring more teachers so that classrooms will be smaller makes the most difference. (That’s also the bedrock of the union refrain that what’s good for teachers — hiring more of them — is always what’s good for the children.) Indeed, the core of the reformers’ argument, and the essence of the Obama approach to the Race to the Top, is that a slew of research over the last decade has discovered that what makes the most difference is the quality of the teachers and the principals who supervise them. Dan Goldhaber, an education researcher at the University of Washington, reported, “The effect of increases in teacher quality swamps the impact of any other educational investment, such as reductions in class size.”
This building on 118th Street could be Exhibit A for that conclusion.
The full article can be found here.
A quick look will show you why: vouchers pits two traditionally Democratic constituents against each other, minorities and teachers union. In case you were wondering, I am on the side of the minorities.
In this case, the voucher bill passed and the school choice effort marches on.
The Chicago Tribune gives the details:
The legislation got through the Senate in March after being championed by Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, and suburban Republicans. But by Wednesday, teachers unions had regrouped and its supporters found themselves pleading with opponents to overcome a furious lobbying effort to stop the bill.
“Think back to why you ran for office,” said sponsoring Rep. Kevin Joyce, D-Chicago. “Was it for a pension? I doubt it. Was it to protect the leadership of a union? I doubt that. Actually in all cases, I believe each and every one of us here got involved to try and make a difference in the lives of our fellow man.”
Joyce could muster only 48 of the 60 votes needed to pass a bill that would have allowed students to get vouchers worth about $3,700 to switch to private or parochial schools beginning in fall 2011.
Joyce said the bill would have passed if it had not faced the union opposition. The bill got support from 26 Republicans and 22 Democrats, fewer votes than Joyce had expected from his fellow Democrats.
Fighting back tears during the lengthy debate, Rep. Suzanne Bassi, R-Palatine, called on fellow lawmakers to “search your souls” to support the measure because “we have failed these kids in the inner-city schools.”
“I’m pleading with you,” said Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, who represents an area with four public schools where students would have been eligible for vouchers. “I’m begging you. Help me help kids in my district.”
Jay P. Greene has more here.
What’s the quickest and easiest way to create a nationwide system of segregation academies? Force people to go to school based on where they live. How do you make them even worse? Let the district lines be drawn by an unaccountable bureaucracy that claims to care about kids but actually doesn’t care how many children’s lives it has to destroy in order to keep the gravy trains running on time. What is the only – the only – empirically proven way to successfully smash segregation? School choice.” — Greg Forster, blogging on the segregation of NY publc schools
Jaime Escalante, the brilliant public school teacher immortalized in the 1988 film, “Stand and Deliver,” died last week at the age of 79. Cato’s Andrew Coulson writes in the WSJ about what his experience tells us:
In any other field, his methods would have been widely copied. Instead, Escalante’s success was resented. And while the teachers union contract limited class sizes to 35, Escalante could not bring himself to turn students away, packing 50 or more into a room and still helping them to excel. This weakened the union’s bargaining position, so it complained.
By 1990, Escalante was stripped of his chairmanship of the math department he’d painstakingly built up over a decade. Exasperated, he left in 1991, eventually returning to his native Bolivia. Garfield’s math program went into a decline from which it has never recovered. The best tribute America can offer Jaime Escalante is to understand why our education system destroyed rather than amplified his success—and then fix it.
A succinct diagnosis of the problem was offered by President Clinton in 1993 at the launch of philanthropist Walter Annenberg’s $500 million education reform challenge. “People in this room who have devoted their lives to education,” he said, “are constantly plagued by the fact that nearly every problem has been solved by somebody somewhere, and yet we can’t seem to replicate it everywhere else.” Our greatest challenge is to create “a system to somehow take what is working and make it work everywhere.”
The most naïve approach has been to create a critical mass of exemplary “model” schools, imagining that the system would spontaneously reconstitute itself around their example. This was the implicit assumption underlying the Annenberg Challenge and, with donor matching, more than $1 billion was spent on it. As a mechanism for widely disseminating excellence, it failed utterly.
President Obama wants a government program for identifying and disseminating what works. In his blueprint for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act released in March, he proposed the creation of “‘communities of practice’ to share best practices and replicate successful strategies.”
He’s not the first to advocate this approach. The secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education pursued the same idea—in 1837. Horace Mann, father of American public schooling, thought that a centrally planned state education apparatus would reliably identify and bring to scale the best methods and materials in use throughout the system. Despite a century-and-a-half of expansion and centralization, this approach, too, has failed. Without systematic incentives rewarding officials for wise decisions and penalizing them for bad ones, public schooling became a ferris wheel of faddism rather than a propagator of excellence.
Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, writes on the recent vote to end DC Vouchers:
It was perfectly predictable but still sad to watch. The U.S. Senate voted 55-42 yesterday against continuing the DC voucher program. Among Republicans only Olympia Snowe voted against the program. Among Democrats (or Independents), Feinstein, Lieberman, Nelson, and Warner voted for the program.
What was the reason Democrats gave for voting against the D.C. Voucher program that primarily helps minorities? He explains:
the quality of the opponents’ scientific reasoning was exemplified by Sen. Byron Dorgan of South Dakota. As you can see in this link to CSPAN coverage (starting around minute 21), he argues that there is no need for vouchers because our public school system is doing a great job. And we know this because graduates of American public schools were the people who put a man on the moon. I’m not sure what public school Wernher von Braun attended.
But it sure wasn’t a public school like those in DC…or any public school in the ghetto, schools that minorities are forced to attend. Like I’ve said a thousand times on this blog, Democrats first and foremost priority is to the teachers union and public school, Republicans, atleast on Education Vouchers, are on the side of the students – especially minority students.
Before we embark on universal preschool, we should look at the results from universal kindergarten. According to Elizabeth U. Cascio, assistant professor of economics at Dartmouth College, the gains were far short of expectations:
My results indicate that state funding of universal kindergarten had no discernible impact on many of the long-term outcomes desired by policymakers, including grade retention, public assistance receipt, employment, and earnings. White children were 2.5 percent less likely to be high school dropouts and 22 percent less likely to be incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized as adults following state funding initiatives, but no other effects could be discerned. Also, I find no positive effects for African Americans, despite comparable increases in their enrollment in public kindergartens after implementation of the initiatives. These findings suggest that even large investments in universal early-childhood education programs do not necessarily yield clear benefits, especially for more disadvantaged students.
The full post can be found here.
What studies like this ignore is that it isn’t rigorous data politicians base their decisions on: its the next election. And programs like universal kindergarten and today’s universal preschool efforts, while they do little to actually improve education, do improve the wallets of a very powerful lobbyists group – the teachers union. And when it comes to policy, that is what matters most.
I remember reading that Malcolm X, being the radical that he was, increased the support for Martin Luther King Jr. In a world without a Malcolm X, MLK would have been the radical one. But with Malcolm X in the picture, it pushes people to compromise on a more ‘moderate’ person – and MLK fit right in.
Today, vouchers do the same for charter schools. Because vouchers are considered the ‘radical’ alternative, they make charter schools look moderate.
Is there a compromise approach? Sure. Let’s continue to expand charter school programs and try out the most innovative ideas from private schools. But let’s not give up on public education.
In a world with vouchers as an alternative, charter schools seem much more reasonable. Greg Forster has more here.
I admit it, I get uneasy feelings when people congratulate Obama for increasing Pell Grants. I don’t see it as the universal positive that many others do. For three reasons.
First, Pell grants are politically cheap. Increasing funding for Pell grants takes little courage and comes with no political cost. Who disagrees with more funding for poor people to go to college? Certainly only the heartless. Whats more, it doesn’t come out of Obama’s own pocket, it’s after all, the tax payers money. And what politician doesn’t like being generous with other peoples money?
Work done at my research center reinforces findings of others that exploding student loan programs have contributed to higher tuition charges, and if Pell Grants grow more inclusive and generous, the same effect will occur with them…
The demand for higher education grows with rising federal financial assistance, but the supply grows less rapidly, pushing up prices (tuition fees). Supply is comparatively rigid because the so-called best schools attain their lofty reputation by turning away customers: college rankings are enhanced by taking very qualified bright kids who likely will graduate (and are disproportionately affluent). Dropping money out of airplanes over the houses of college students (or its equivalent) is not the solution.
Normally, this shouldn’t be a difficult concept to understand. After all, who doubts that the spread of low cost mortgage financing helped fuel the housing bubble? Its the same concept here: low cost Pell grants, and especially low cost student loans, are a primary cause of University tuition increases. It’s standard subsidy economics.
Third, it crowds out the private sector. The more the government funds it the less private donors will feel the need to, and thus, you replace private charity with public charity. And because public charity is less scrupulous than private charity, you make the grants less efficient. Which helps to explain why most pell grant recipients do not earn a college degree.
Arthur M. Hauptman, from the Center For American progress, explains:
Instead, we should worry more that increases in Pell Grants may lead institutions to reduce the amount of discounts they would otherwise have provided to the recipients, who are from poor families, and move the aid these students would have received to others. This possibility of a substitution effect is supported by the data showing that public and private institutions are now more likely to provide more aid to more middle-income students than low-income students.
In short, I see Pell grants as a way for Obama to escape real education reform by throwing us crumbs, just enough for us to shut up, and many do.