Education as competitive market
I enjoyed Diane Ravitch’s The Language Police, which is about the close control of language and thought in schools by various pressure groups. Since then she has also been watching the progress of the school reform movement, and although she would once have been classified as on the Bush side of No Child Left Behind, she’s changed her mind based on the actual data. That is the subject of her NYT article, How to, and how not to improve schools. She discusses the progress of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), Teach For America (TFA) and charter schools as they have played out in the reform game. She also discusses the Finnish model of highly paid, masters-level professional teachers whose autonomy may be a major factor in their success.
The article covers a lot of ground but here’s a striking bit:
Experienced teachers are fleeing American public education in response to the testing demands of No Child Left Behind, which reduce professional autonomy. According to federal data, the “modal years” of teacher experience in our public schools in 1987–1988 was fifteen, meaning that there were more teachers with fifteen years of experience than any other group. By 2007–2008, the largest number of teachers were in their first year of teaching. In response to the ongoing drumbeat of public opprobrium inspired by corporate-style school reform, we are losing the experienced teachers that students and new teachers need.
OK, great – new blood and all that. Let’s do the same thing with aircraft design and civil engineering! But I digress. The striking thing is that the new teachers aren’t staying either: 40 to 50 percent leave in the first five years. This may be partly due to the fact that teachers with the toughest classes will be judged “unsatisfactory”.
Someone once said; “If your boss tells you exactly what to do, sooner or later he will find someone cheaper than you to do it.” (citation needed). This is the recipe for an education “race to the bottom”. If you want your kids taught by inexperienced teachers who aren’t allowed to apply much thought to their work, this is the way to go. Because The Free Market™ is the only model for getting anything done in any context, right?