Thursday, October 16, 2014

Education reform thoughts

This is Joseph.

I sent this article to Mark, but thought the blog might appreciate a few comments on it as well.  In particular, I was struck by the following passage:
We could double teachers' salaries. I'm not joking about that. The standard way that you make a profession a prestigious, desirable profession, is you pay people enough to make it attractive. The fact that that doesn't even enter the conversation tells you something about what's wrong with the conversation around these topics. I could see an argument that says it's just not worth it, that it would cost too much. The fact that nobody even asks the question tells me that people are only willing to consider cheap solutions. They're looking for easy answers, not hard answers.
In a really important way, this is the most compelling counter-point to the cries of urgency that accompany reform.  It's not that salary doubling is necessarily the solution, but that reformers appear to want cost-neutral or cost-saving improvements in quality. 

Now it is possible that such options exist.  It seems difficult to imagine extremely large effect sizes, as international comparisons don't seem to find obvious (cost neutral) options.  Do note that a longer school day without increasing salaries is an effective pay cut. 

Now, if there really is a crisis, why isn't the "pay more" option next to ideas like remove tenure?  Was that not the way we often respond to crises (think of the World Wars)?  Would increasing taxes to double salaries make it easier to remove (for example) tenure? 

Who knows.  But the Overton window here is pretty revealing. 

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