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Friday, November 07, 2008

Providing "Every Child a World-Class Education"

Is hiring high quality teachers the key to improving schools?

Want better schools? Hire better teachers, by Edward L. Glaeser, Commentary, Boston Globe: President-elect Barack Obama has declared that "now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation - to provide every child a world-class education."

But how? ... The clearest result from ... education research is the importance of teacher quality. My colleague Tom Kane finds that students who are lucky enough to get a teacher in the top quarter of the teacher-quality distribution jump 10 percentile points in the student achievement distribution... Improving teacher quality has about twice the impact on student outcomes as radically reducing class size. ...

The first step toward improving teacher quality is to attract more talented teachers. The second step is to improve teacher selection on the job, promoting the best and encouraging the worst to help society in some other way. ...

Attracting better teachers will ... require much more money than $18 billion per year committed by President-elect Obama. Higher pay for successful teachers will make teaching more financially attractive. Just as importantly, it will send the message that our society values its educators.

Schools can also attract more talent with an environment that welcomes talented outsiders instead of erecting bureaucratic barriers that prevent their success. The literature on teacher certification finds few benefits from that hurdle. ...

If attracting a wave of good people into teaching is the first step, the second step is keeping the best teachers and redirecting the rest. Performance in the classroom is the best way to know if a teacher is a success. Teacher promotion and tenure needs to be based on clear performance measures... Perhaps teachers unions could start endorsing the use of test scores to evaluate their members and determine tenure.

Even without formal performance metrics, principals are quite able to assess pedagogical talent. ... Let the principals choose better-performing teachers and require the principals to leave if their school doesn't improve. Principals have inside knowledge. Like CEOs throughout our economy, they need to have the independent authority to use that knowledge.

This election marks a new beginning. Improving our schools may be the most important way that President-elect Obama can leave America stronger than he found it. He must avoid any small plans. ... The country needs a massive education overhaul...

    Posted by on Friday, November 7, 2008 at 12:33 AM in Economics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (51)

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