Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Odd Hobby

"I have an odd hobby--namely, collecting terrible ideas intended to solve our educational woes. Most, I admit, are pretty run-of-the-mill, but a few are truly museum quality. ... An especially promising candidate for curator acquisition is the proposal that first-rate teachers should be encouraged or even forced to ply their trade in bad schools so as to uplift struggles. This cure' is a permanent no-brainer item on today's reform menu. ... And what was it about these shunned schools that made them so unattractive to superior teachers? These schools, according to [Nancy] Schwartz, suffered from poor leadership or a poor professional culture. Send in the A-team to fix the culture, and test scores will climb. Unfortunately, this glittering solution fails to survive even the most rudimentary inspection. Experts like Nancy Schwartz totally ignore ccost accounting. ... That is, the anticipated uptick in, say remedial arithmetic at Hobbes will outweigh a possible decline on advanced calculus for the Einstein nerds. Schwartz also glibly assumes that the financial incentives necessary to entice gifted teachers represent the superior allocation of scarce resources (opportunity costs). Conceivably, but not acknowledgewd , the bribe money might be better spent on, say, smaller clasess or better remedial coursework; and taken as a whole across every school district in America, this shifting of resources yields a net loss, In any case, calculating gains or losses is extremely complicated, and Ms. Schwartz and her minions seem oblivious to the obligation. ... If this interchangability of human talent theory were correct, then the massive court-ordered racial integration schemes of the last forty years should have long ago narrowed educational gaps. Instead, they have clearly failed. This was the 'hostage theory' of racial integration--transfer underachieving blacks from resource-starved schools with poorly trained teachers so superior whit teachers would be 'forced' to educate the new arrivals. ... These 'most in need' schools are typically physically dangerous, especially for women, and with talented teachers always in demand, why risk life and limb for a modest 'combat pay' bonus? ... This racial element in discouraging top teachers to relovate to under-performing school (which are usually black or Hispanic) is the truth that dare not speak its own name. ... If sending the best to the worst becomes official policy and includes coercive measures, educational disaster is inevitable. Skilled teachers will shun school districts with large minority populations lest they get conscripted for troubled, possibly life-threatening schools", Robert Weissberg (RW) at American Thinker, 20 January 2010, link: http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/01/should_the_worst_schools_get_t.html.

When you don't know what you are talking about, deliver platitudes like CPAs "Tone at the top" or "Internal Control Environment". RW notes shifting "better" teachers to heavily NAM schools to improve them is reminiscent of the 1960s' "skip zoning" concept. Good luck. What is an under-performing school anyway, my 18 September 2008 post: http://skepticaltexascpa.blogspot.com/2008/09/todays-sat.html.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it the opium of all political systems that education and other social goods can be distributed equally?

The world is not inherently equal.

We spend a lot of effort hoping it to be. Odd idea.

Thai said...

This issue is as old as time

Even if you are 100% correct, you still have the problem of how to get social cooperation under such an situation.

Unless you get social cooperation on issues like this, all your observations means nothing.

The tone of this post kind of reminds me of the observation many health care policy wonks eventually make: "we have met the enemy and it is the patient".

Ego is a funny thing