ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Too few teachers?

Interesting op-ed in the WSJ yesterday (subscription required) from Chester Finn Jr.

The statistic that jumped out on the page to me, was that although students have increased 50% in the last 50 years, the number of teachers has increased almost 300%.

He notes that if the teaching force increase had just remained in-line with enrollments, teachers would earn an average of $100,000 a year.

He outlines several areas of interest:

What America has done, these past 50 years, is invest in more teachers rather than better ones, even as countless appealing and lucrative options have opened up for the able women who once poured into public schooling.

No wonder there are shortages in key branches of this sprawling profession. When you employ three million people and you don't pay very well, it's hard to keep a field fully staffed, especially in locales (rural communities, tough urban schools) that aren't too enticing and in subjects such as math and science where well-qualified individuals can earn big bucks doing something else.

He also outlines how we got to this point:
[T]he seductiveness of smaller classes. Teachers want fewer kids in their classrooms and parents think their children will be better off, despite scant evidence that students learn more in smaller classes, particularly from less able instructors.
...
[T]he institutional interests that benefit from a larger teaching force, above all dues-collecting (and influence-seeking) unions, and colleges of education whose revenues (tuition, state subsidies) and size (all those faculty slots) depend on their enrollments.
...
[T]he social forces pushing schools to treat children differently from one another, creating one set of classes for the gifted, others for children with handicaps, those who want to learn Japanese, who seek full-day kindergarten or who crave more community-service opportunities.

All of these make a lot of sense in my opinion. Limiting the influence of the NEA and the Education cabal at the university level and instead focus on allowing subject matter experts in the classroom, rewarding good teachers instead of those that just put in their time, and provide pay for the most needed areas.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: Brian