John Merrow’s education blog has an interesting interview with Eric Hanushek, a leading education researcher. This interview shows just how misguided are the current current path and goals of USD 259, the Wichita public school district.
Readers may recall that last year, the Wichita school district convinced voters to approve a large bond issue, a large portion of which is to pay for new schools and more classrooms in existing schools. This is to implement the district’s goal of smaller class sizes.
What the district doesn’t realize — at least not publicly — is that class size is not important. Instead, the quality of teachers is much more important. Says Hanushek: “Much of the work that I have done has focused on teacher effectiveness. From this research I have concluded that teacher quality is the most important factor in determining how well a school will do. … Teacher quality is not captured by typically discussed characteristics of teachers such as master’s degrees, teaching experience, or even certification — things that states typically monitor. Requiring such things unrelated to student performance dilutes accountability and detracts from things that would make them more effective.”
In the Wichita school district, it should be noted, the only way for a teacher to advance in pay is through gaining education credentials and experience — precisely the things that don’t matter.
In response to a question about public education’s current model (a teacher and 25 or so students), Hanushek replied:
Indeed we are currently at pupil-teacher ratios that are less than 16-to-1. This quest has been very misguided. I believe it is sustainable, but I also believe it is quite mistaken. We need to put much more emphasis on the quality of teachers. To do this, we can and should be paying highly effective teachers substantially more than we do today. But part of the package is not paying high salaries equally to effective and ineffective teachers. There is a clear bargain here. Pay effective teachers what they are worth (think six-figure salaries) but also have them teach somewhat more kids. That model is easily supported. What is not supported is paying large salaries to both effective and ineffective teachers and also reducing class sizes.
The entire interview is at “Pay teachers what they are worth (think six-figures)”: An Interview with Rick Hanushek. The title of this article ought to give teachers a preview of what could possibly happen, if not for the policies of their union.