Yes, Teachers Are Still ‘Shovel Ready’, Even If That Pisses Off Education ‘Reformers’

While I’m not especially keen on Obama’s jobs proposal–not that it matters, since it will never get past the Republicans in the House–I did like the emphasis on rehiring teachers who have been fired due to budget cuts. This is something I proposed over a year ago–the Mad Biologist is always ahead of the curve:

Keep in mind, the teacher layoffs are occurring because of budget cuts, not appropriate personnel decisions (and I’ve never heard of a district that won’t hire teachers if they were to have the money to do so. Most schools need teachers). And the new hires are not just for expansion, but also to keep place and replace retirements and other forms of attrition. This means students have few teachers and larger class sizes, which is not good for learning.

Regarding ‘shovel ready’, these jobs are very ready–and obviously the layoffs can be halted with the stroke of a pen. Or we could fire more people during a depression and hurt education.

One of the things to keep in mind is that some education reformers don’t want these teachers to be rehired:

What’s less acknowledged is that there is a quieter conversation among reformers about reducing the size of the teaching force regardless of whether or not such a move is necesitated by budget crises.The folks who will talk about this most explicitly are those who are not (or no longer) actively engaged in political negotiations around teacher quality–folks like Joel Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor-cum-Murdoch-consigliere. But Rhee nods toward this argument when she notes to Rubinstein that “enrollment has actually been decreasing.” Indeed, research by education sociologist Richard Ingersoll has found that since the 1980s, the number of teachers has grown far faster than the number of students.

Eric Hanushek, a prominent Stanford University education researcher and fellow at the free-market Hoover Institution, has used these stats to advocate for laying off “ineffective teachers selectively while letting class sizes drift up a little.” Arne Duncan has made similar arguments. But it is Joel Klein who has discussed this most explicitly. At the New Schools Venture Fund conference in San Francisco this June, he noted that school funding and personnel costs have risen over the past several decades while test scores remained essentially flat. “We made the wrong bet,” he said:

We bet essentially on a personnel strategy that needs to be radically, in my view, reformed. … A very different system would be empowered by technology…a huge infusion of private capital aimed at creating an entirely new delivery system. Teachers would be much fewer, but paid much more…it would be data-driven, it would be customized, it would engage kids, it would differentiate the approaches we take, and it would value human capital in a much different way

Wireless Generation, the company News Corp. acquired and put under Klein’s corporate purview, hopes to put these ideas into practice.

Joel Klein makes a tiny boo-boo: test scores have not remained flat over the last couple of decades. This is fixing a non-existent problem. It also demonstrates just how refractory to evidence education reformers can be.

Probably pays well though.

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