Thursday, October 14, 2010

Waiting for Superman? Don’t hold your breath

I often refrain from blogging about the education space because the business I run is education related and there is such a uniform, embedded, world-view it’s hard to have reasoned dialogue. “Waiting for Superman”, because it’s produced by a liberal, seem to, at last, lift the taboo on this subject. So here goes.

This industry seems to have a singular focus on money as the prime lever for good education. The graph below shows the results of this policy.

In the last 40 years the cost of education has gone up 375%, that’s almost 100% per decade, with no improvement in student achievement whatever. Is there any stronger repudiation of the spending argument?

Yet the teacher’s unions have convinced this country that any attempts at controlling cost will have a disastrous effect on the education of children and the future of this country.

Over the same period, student population grew by 10% the teacher population grew by 100%. Class size did not change much, for all of these resources are now deployed as ‘layers of experts’ adding overhead and reducing accountability. Who’s at fault if a student fails? The classroom teacher? The reading specialist? The curriculum coordinator? Special Ed? Lunch lady? Overlay of responsibility equals plausible deniability.

Here’s a simple mind experiment: If the growth in teacher population kept pace with the growth of student population, the average teacher would be making $150K per year. That would attract a completely different type of individual to the teaching profession, and we wouldn’t be arguing about class size.

The only way to fix this system is to bring accountability back. I say this as Michelle Rhee exits her position of Chancellor of the DC school district, her attempts at reform thwarted by an uncooperative Democratic congress, an unsympathetic populace that voted the reformist mayor Adrian Fenty out, and overly powerful teacher’s union.

You can wait for Superman; just don’t hold your breath