A report by the Brookings Brown Institute provides data that shows that U.S. school teachers have “middling” (aka mediocre) language and math skills when compared to teachers in other developed countries. At the top of both of those lists? Finland, of course. The same Finland which bases its educational practices on American education research. Yes, that Finland.
So, do these findings provide ammunition for the public school reformers whose solution is to “get the bums out” by firing all of the “bad teachers” and replacing them with “great teachers?”
Uh, not exactly.
As to whether it is desirable for our teachers to show higher proficiencies in these basic academic skills, one could say yes, that is desirable. As to replacing the less adept teachers with really, really good ones … good luck with that strategy. Most reformer-types wouldn’t know a great teacher if one bit them in the ass. So their procedure breaks down to “fire the bad teachers and hire a bunch of new ones and hope for the best.” Then there is the small problem that teachers earn 20% less than others with equivalent education and skills. So the reformers are actually claiming to be able to find great teachers hiding in the pool of candidates willing to work for 20% less than others of the same abilities (on average!). Should they not rather conclude that that is why the current labor pool is as it is? That is, you get what you pay for? (If their business needed skilled machinists or skilled programmers, would you find them down at WalMart hiring guys off of the street?)
Let’s apply the reformer’s strategy to, say, CEOs. When companies struggle, fire their CEO’s ass and replace them with people making 20% less than others having similar qualifications. I am sure the application process can weed out those who are making more money to get a pool of those making 20% less than average, and then a few interviews and voila, a new CEO.
Maybe performance bonuses of 3-4X annual salary, like they do on Wall Street would help. You got any ideas? Can’t be worse than the current crop of ideas from the billionaire boy education reformers.
PS While Britain may be a “nation of shopkeepers,” we have always been a nation of the middling sorts. The post constitution period shows this quite clearly. Our early success was due to middling abilities surrounded by a vast wealth of natural resources. And we have always have had geniuses, a few anyway, but by and large we are average-ish. Consider our current candidates for President. These are our best and brightest? I shudder to think so.
PPS Oh, and Finland? Finland pays about 15% more for teachers compared to the earnings of others with the same skills and education.