December 13, 2010
Bad apples and bad ideas
An interesting survey of public opinion on education found that most Americans--68 percent--bear a heavy share of the blame for problems in the nation's public school system. Only 35 percent set a great deal of blame on teachers.
That's quite a different perspective than one finds in recent efforts to promote education reform, including those coming from the Obama administration, where a "if we purge teachers, things will improve" mentality seems to prevail. Some reform initiatives from the administration encourage firing of teachers in poorly performing schools, without taking into account all the other factors involved.
Nobody I know, including people represented by teachers' unions and those who work for them, denies that there are some bad teachers out there. But problem teachers should be dealt with on a case by case basis, not by blanket purges that punish the competent along with the incompetent.
The blame-teachers-first mentality seems to view teachers as the sole or primary cause of poorly performing schools. But as I've said here before, to establish causality, one needs three things, two of which are easy and one of which is hard. First, the cause and effect need to be associated (teachers and schools, in this case). Second, the cause must come before the effect (the teachers were there before the kids were). Third--and this is the kicker--you need to be able to rule out other factors. And here is where that train derails.
There are all kinds of factors affecting poorly performing schools and students, including poverty, family, nutrition, health, community issues, distance from school and enrichment activities, parental and community involvement, etc.
A friend of mine, the Rev. Matthew Watts, actually did the math and calculated that from a child is born until he or she reaches age 19, only 9 percent of the time will have been spent in school. The other 91 percent is spent in the home or in the community. To really address these issues, we need to look at the other 91 percent as well.
MORE ON ALL THAT here.
KLEPTOCRACY lives. And more from Krugman here.
A DOWN PAYMENT ON HEALTH CARE REFORM. West Virginia is launching a new pilot program to provide low cost primary care to the uninsured.
VIRAL CAT VIDEO DEPARTMENT. By way of Youtube, patty cake will never be the same.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED