Malcolm Gladwell has a long article in New Yorker about problems schools face predicting which people will be good at teaching. In summary, teachers are the most important factor affecting student learning, more important than class size, or a "good" school vs a "bad" school. Schools can't predict which teachers will be good, but the current pay structure and tenure system makes it difficult to remove bad teachers and reward good ones, and as a result no one's really happy with school quality. Gladwell says we should open up the discipline to anybody who proves they're competent, and rework the pay schedules so that we can eliminate bad teachers more easily and keep the good ones.
My response is:
Shout it from the rooftops, Malcolm! This set of conclusions must not be obvious to some people. Teacher quality matters. I spent four hours in the Dean of Faculty's office sorting through teacher evaluations, picking out the best teachers, because I want to make sure I get good teachers. I want to put those evaluations online for everyone to see, and why teacher's unions are pure evil and the main obstacle to school improvement today. School effectiveness is all about culling and removing bad teachers and giving the good ones bonuses to get them to stay. Bad teachers are cancerous parts of a school. They don't mean to be awful, but they are.
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