NJ School Boards MusketeersSeptember 12, 2008
Apples and OrangesSeptember 15, 2008
Megan McArdle, a blogger for the Atlantic Monthly has a thoughtful description of the dysfunction within education, specifically unions vs. bureaucrats:
The school system is dysfunctional on all sides. On one side, you’ve got a bureaucracy so terrified that a teacher will make a mistake that it sets up “everything not compulsory is forbidden” rules. I’m not talking about forcing people to do things that they may not want to do, but which actually further the institution’s goals, like implementing Direct Instruction. I’m talking about detailed rules specifying how many bathroom breaks a teacher can take. And the fact that each school is complying with so many state, federal, and local regulations that it’s a wonder they can ever take a break from filling out forms to teach a class. We’re treating educated professionals like they’re would-be criminals who need to be watched every second lest they steal the chalk.
On the other side, you have an equally bureaucratic union, and a set of job protection rules that make it virtually impossible to fire anyone for poor performance, or reward them for good. I don’t think anyone who has actually gone through the school system thinks that length of service is a good measure of teaching effectiveness, but that’s how they’re paid–seniority, and accumulation of usually thoroughly worthless educational credentials. And unless they start molesting their charges, it’s basically impossible to fire them.
We need to start treating teachers like professionals. We need to start paying them like professionals. And we need to start holding them accountable like professionals. Doing one or two out of three won’t improve anything, except perhaps some teacher bank accounts.