Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Education is Not the Magic Pill

Linda Chavez, in her Commentary article, "Let Us by All Means, Have an Honest Conversation About Race, wrote:

" Despite what many critics claim (about how to address low achievement among African-Americans,) is the problem traceable to a lack of funding for predominantly black urban schools as opposed to the predominantly white schools of the suburbs? A recent General Accountability Office study found no consistent pattern of underfunded city schools. Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis, for example, spend more to educate their mostly black and Latino student populations than do the surrounding suburbs with their largely white student populations. Perhaps the most glaring example of the disconnection between funding levels and achievement is the school system of Washington, D.C., which spends more than $15,000 annually per pupil—almost twice the national average—but produces among the lowest achievement scores of any school system in the country."


Anonymous said...

Facts always trump feel-good explanations for problems.

I'm curious what Chavez sees as the cause of the disparity.

Dr. Michael R. Edelstein

Anon said...


What do you think about Malcolm Gladwell's statement about the effects of good teachers?

Here's his video:

Thanks for you response,


Marty Nemko said...

He's a remarkable storyteller but his point is so obvious: you can't pick employees based on their amount of formal education or SAT score.

What he leaves out is HOW you can make better picks. It's simple, and something I've recommended to employers for years: Into your job ad, embed a question that requires the applicant to tackle a problem(s) that he'd face in the job. Applicants that do well on that, face a series of those simulations in-person, instead of the silly job interviews, which are coachable and/or rarely predict success on the job.

Marty Nemko said...

His point was that IF you replaced the worst 25% of teachers (in terms of how much their students grow) with above-average teachers, the average student's test scores would rise 10%ile per year. There's a huge problem with that:
1. The teacher's union, which is in the hip pocket of the Democrat party would NEVER allow that.
2. There aren't that many good teachers out there or the districts would have hired them. Perhaps the districts would have made hiring errors but would have fired those teachers during their probationary periods so they could try again.
3. He extrapolated from one study that found that really good teachers increased student performance 10%ile over others. How generalizable is that? Would it continue in years 2, 3, etc? What would the financial, political, and esprit de corps costs be of dumping new teachers and searching for and training these superior teachers?

Anon said...

I agree that there are obstacles, and I think there is one you did not mention: many people who would make good teachers are turned off and discouraged by the entry barriers* required to become a teacher.

*certifications (which suffer from the mismatch problem)