Building Better Teachers

by Harry on March 5, 2010

A riveting piece by Elizabeth Green in Sunday’s Times magazine on the coming revolution in teacher preparation. Rarely for a Sunday magazine piece it is well worth reading the whole thing. She takes as her starting point the movements for deselection (firing teachers — my rule of thumb is that the more someone talks about firing teachers the less likely it is that they will actually do it) and merit pay, and points out:

So far, both merit-pay efforts and programs that recruit a more-elite teaching corps, like Teach for America, have thin records of reliably improving student learning. Even if competition could coax better performance, would it be enough? Consider a bar graph presented at a recent talk on teaching, displaying the number of Americans in different professions. The shortest bar, all the way on the right, represented architects: 180,000. Farther over, slightly higher, came psychologists (185,000) and then lawyers (952,000), followed by engineers (1.3 million) and waiters (1.8 million). On the left side of the graph, the top three: janitors, maids and household cleaners (3.3 million); secretaries (3.6 million); and, finally, teachers (3.7 million). Moreover, a coming swell of baby-boomer retirements is expected to force school systems to hire up to a million new teachers between now and 2014. Expanding the pool of potential teachers is clearly important, but in a profession as large as teaching, can financial incentives alone make an impact?

There is no alternative but to prepare teachers better for the task.

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Georgia on my mind

by Maria on March 5, 2010

This is a travel bleg. In a couple of weeks’ time, I hope to meet up with my beloved who’ll briefly be in Fort Benning, Georgia, and spend a weekend travelling together in Georgia or Alabama. His initial thoughts lead to south Georgia and the coastline or perhaps into Alabama. Mine are more a night in Athens, soaking in some music, and a drive around the classic heartland. The cherry blossoms in Macon also appeal, though we’ve got plenty of those in D.C. We’ve already been to Savannah and are more interested in visiting smaller towns this time, and getting a feel for another side of America. 48 hours is a very short time so spend in a place I’ve wanted to visit for so long. We’ll be flying back from Atlanta but don’t plan to spend time there. Any wisdom to offer?

The deadline for the manuscript of Zombie Economics (last complete draft here) is only a few weeks away, and the zombies are popping up faster than I can knock them down. I’m adding a section on reanimated zombies to each chapter. Over the fold is the social mobility defense of trickle down economics, as animated by Thomas Sowell. There’s still time for me to benefit from your comments.

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