Liam Julian

Can't get enough Checker Finn? Well, he has two longish pieces in this week's Gadfly, hot off the virtual press. His first article??is about why teachers deserve both respect and sympathy.

Surf over to one of the Ed Week blogs, such as Campaign K12 or NCLB: Act II, and see if Joel Packer's face pops up at the top of your screen, too.

Joel is a very nice guy with an unfortunate job (flacking all manner of dubious ideas for the National Education Association's federal policy shop). This advertising buy should remind us all that in the education "war of ideas," the NEA still has the big guns--i.e., the big money. But guess what? Our podcast can take his podcast any day.

A study to appear in October by MIT economist Joshua Angrist and University of Chicago business school professor Jonathan Guryan apparently says yes, according to this article. That's a counter-intuitive finding, of course; many reformers (ourselves included) have argued forever that tough teacher tests will deter poorly educated people from becoming teachers while attracting talented individuals. But maybe not. Here's how the scholars explain it:

First, they note, applicants whose educational backgrounds qualify them to teach are also likely qualified to work in other fields. When they weigh their job options, they calculate the cost in time, effort and money of the mandated tests as salary reductions.

"Higher quality applicants, as measured by outside earnings potential, are more likely to pass the test," Angrist says, but they're also more likely to want wages that will repay their efforts to take the tests. In addition, they're consumers; they can look for jobs at companies that don't require costly licensing tests.

Second, the discouragement effect, as economists call it, serves as a barrier to applicants broadly, Angrist notes. People who might be great teachers may choose not to study or pay for certification for myriad reasons, a loss


The American--a "magazine of ideas" published by the American Enterprise Institute--has the latest review of Checker's book, Troublemaker. Check it out.

Yesterday I attended an informal event at Education Sector where Marc Tucker from NCEE spoke about international education. Tucker has spent a lot of time studying educational assessment and practices in various other countries and said a few blog-worthy things. First, that some of the biggest differences between many other high-performing nations and the US is that other nations hold students more accountable than the teachers and utilize "instructional systems" that integrate curricular exams, as opposed to the more isolated tests that we use. He spent quite a bit of time talking up the merits of various other high-performing nations, leaving a couple of us asking what political and economic hurdles the US faces in trying to adopt some of these reforms.

Tucker pointed out, as have others, that the US is much larger than other high-achieving countries and has a bigger disparity in income, though he has some ideas about how to address the latter. Pressed about cultural differences, he said if a solution is found to work both in Asia and Europe, then there should be no "cultural problem" with it in the US. He mentioned the strategy of teachers following students from...

This week, the good news never ends. Check out David Hoff's latest post: Principals' Group Joins Push for National Standards.

Liam Julian

Race-based school integration is on the way out. But Richard Kahlenberg thinks, and hopes, that economic integration is on the way in. Jefferson County, Kentucky, where the school assignment policy discriminated by race until the Supreme Court put an end to it, has decided that integrating classrooms by income is a legal way to achieve diversity. (Although, Kahlenberg points out,??a "white Louisville lawyer"??still thinks Jefferson's new plan could be challenged in court.)

I won't dive into the specifics of Jefferson's new system, but anyone who reads the paragraphs in which Kahlenberg describes it will have to stop... and reread... and reread again. Why? Because??Jefferson County has needlessly complicated its k-12 structure with statistical muck that serves no identifiable purpose. If only school districts??heaped the same effort and resources into recruiting quality teachers that they do into shuffling students around their domains.

Economic integration is a flop. It won't work; it doesn't work. (Kahlenberg consistently cites Wake County, North Carolina, as his example of success. If success is??pissed-off parents and lawsuits, he's right.) When I wrote an article about??economic integration??last year, I called the piece "There They Go Again"--because proponents of income diversity in schools are...

Liam Julian

I read stuff like this and think it's some kind of joke. That teachers in Los Angeles??are required to spend one hour of the school day protesting outside school, or else, according to union president A.J. Duffy, they "will be crossing a picket line," is just anachronistic and ridiculous. Students (remember them?) will be supervised by aides, administrators, and parent volunteers--although the district is concerned that pupils will not, in fact, be adequately supervised and that mischief will ensue. Too bad.

Also: What do students learn when they witness their instructors shirking their job responsibilities, marching around the schoolhouse's exterior walls, banging drums and hoisting signs? While Americans puzzle over how best to instill some sense of discipline and respect for authority in the public schools, teachers engage in??this type??of irresponsible display, which puts forth a clear message: "Kids, challenge authority and don't live up to your commitments."

Teachers bridle when someone makes the mistake of not calling them "professionals." Certainly many teachers are fine people and fine workers and provide an honorable service for which they deserve respect. But the fact is this: Public school teachers are simply missing in their jobs--by choice, I should add--huge...

Liam Julian