(Mike Chamberlain/Cranky Hermit) – Each year we continue to plow more and more money into education at the federal, state and local levels. Yet each successive failure to improve student achievement merely creates further calls for more money, despite the fact that there is no correlation between education spending and student performance. Could it be that much of what we’ve been told and led to believe is wrong?
The LA Times recently published the first in a series of articles entitled Who’s teaching L.A.’s kids? The authors pored over extensive data that had been collected but never used, revealing much about the effectiveness of individual teachers and the impact each had on their students’ academic achievement.
Among the findings:
• Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year’s end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math.
• Some students landed in the classrooms of the poorest-performing instructors year after year — a potentially devastating setback that the district could have avoided. Over the period analyzed, more than 8,000 students got such a math or English teacher at least twice in a row.
• Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas. Rather, these teachers were scattered throughout the district. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.
• Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets. Teachers had three times as much influence on students’ academic development as the school they attend. Yet parents have no access to objective information about individual instructors, and they often have little say in which teacher their child gets.
• Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers’ effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students’ performance.
Other studies of the district have found that students’ race, wealth, English proficiency or previous achievement level played little role in whether their teacher was effective.
Read the whole thing.
This is not the first study to show the importance of a quality teacher to the quality of education a child receives. It has become clear to many of us that simply pouring more money into the black hole of public education is not the answer, despite the claims of many politicians and the education establishment. At least not without a radical new approach and a commitment to reform that puts the needs of students ahead of the wants of the adults in our schools.
I know I speak for many conservatives when I say that I wish we could pay good teachers more money. The problem now is that, in order to do that, we also have to pay more to the bad teachers as well – the ones who are failing us and our kids, stifling them and preventing them from reaching their potential.
We need to find a way to identify the best teachers and reward them. We also need to find a way to identify the worst teachers and force them to find occupations they are better-suited for. And we need to get information about the performance of individual schools and teachers into the hands of parents and let them make informed decisions about their children’s educations. Under our current system all of these things are impossible.
Money, or a lack of money, is not the problem with our current education system. The problem is an entrenched education establishment that values inputs over results and does not, and will not until it is forced to do so, put the needs of the children ahead of the wants of the adults. Merely shoveling more dollars into the same failing system without any accountability is insane.