Friday, December 12, 2008

EdSec Götterdämmerung

As we approach the climax of the EdSec Götterdämmerung, such that even David Warlick throws in his 2 cents, I've just got a couple quickies to throw in from the day's reading.

This might be the most annoying thing I've read this month, courtesy of Jonathan Alter:

Betraying his own professional background, Gates shakes his head in dismay at the idea of secondary schools and colleges trying to function at all without simple software that offers them basic statistical information about how students and teachers are performing over time (for-profit colleges are an exception). Everyone in education knows why: unions have simply prevented teachers from being judged, even in part, on whether their students improve during the course of the year.

Schools don't have good data systems because the IT industry has utterly failed them for decades. You can go back through thirty years of newspaper clippings in Chicago or probably any other city and read story after story, repeating at regular intervals, about the planning, implementation, and ignominious failure of massively expensive IT infrastructure projects. Sure, some of it can be blamed on school administration, ill-thought out legal restrictions, and maybe a little teacher union intransigence in there too, but on the whole, we've been failed by big IT again and again and again. The idea that industry has provided awesome data systems to schools that are ready to if only teachers would give the thumbs up is an utter joke.

Also, Kevin Carey:

As you'd expect, Finland's child care policies are more generous than ours; Matt Yglesias explains more here and here. Meanwhile, on the teaching front, all K-12 teachers are required to go through rigorous university-based training, in most cases through a master's degree. But only 10 - 12% of applicants to university teaching programs are accepted. In other words, the system seems to be roughly what you'd get if you locked Linda Darling-Hammond and Wendy Kopp in a room and didn't let them out until they'd struck a grand bargain about the nature of teacher selection and training.

Um... yeah. Linda Darling-Hammond is interested in improving schools of education, to make them more respected and effective, like Finland's. What is Wendy Kopp contributing to this negotiation?

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