Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Jay is a little off

Jay Matthews has an article about schools in miserable condition and makes the bold statement that it is the teachers and not the schools that need to be fixed first. He argues that once we have great talent generating great results, then we should fix up the schools.

He uses the KIPP schools, Thomas Jefferson Math/Science school in VA and other great schools in lousy buildings as proof of the argument that you don’t need a great building to have incredible learning gains.

The problem with that logic is that we don’t have tons of great teachers and we cannot attract teachers without better facilities. It is one of the many pet peeves I have with the unions – why is there not more outrage for working conditions in this country. In my eyes a union is supposed to get better pay and working conditions and the teacher’s union has not been all that great at the latter.

The teachers that have made a difference in the small number of great schools in crappy buildings would do well in any setting. They are passionate about their craft and continue to work hard ignoring the structural problems that surround them.

But can we seriously expect to find 3.5 million people like that? I doubt we can. We need to be more selective in picking our teachers and in order to do that we have to attract many more of them into the profession and in order to do that – we cannot ask them to work in buildings that are falling down.

I think Jay is a little off on this one.

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