Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Duncan Chases Teachers Away

Arne Duncan's new policy initiative is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences in action.

Duncan proposes that teacher prep programs be evaluated by looking at the test results of the students of the graduates of the college. If that seems like a twisted sentence, that's because it's a twisted program. We can make two early and easy predictions about what effects it will have.

The first is simple. It will mean the college education departments will cut spending on programs so that they can afford whatever administrative assistant has to be hired to spend all their time chasing the numbers necessary to make the report to the feds. Some bunch of adjunct professors are going to have their hours cut so that somebody else can spend his days wending through the labyrinthian process of tracking down alumni, then tracking down their scores.

The second is, well, also simple. We already know that the best predictor of good student test scores is family income. Every college education department that doesn't want to get spanked by the US Department of Education has to do one simple thing-- they must do everything in their power to keep their graduates from getting jobs in poor urban schools.

Urban school districts that have tried to foster good relationships with college ed programs will find that they can't get their calls returned. College ed departments will screen school districts carefully and be cautious about which job openings they pass along to their grads.

If one of Duncan's goals is to put great teachers in poor urban classrooms, he could not have better designed a policy to do the exact opposite. This new policy is just one more step in the process of labeling some schools and some districts as career-killers, schools to be avoided at all costs if you wish to devote your life to teaching. This new policy will just add one more voice to the conversation saying, "Whatever you do, don't get a job at Poor Kid High School."

This is good news for TFA (or at least, it would be if they weren't suffering recruiting woes of their own) because Duncan's policy will help create more artificial teacher shortages in poor urban schools. But it is nothing but bad news for the schools themselves, branded with big scarlet F's and surrounded by signs screaming, "Whatever you do, don't come here to teach!" It is one of Duncan's poorest policy choices yet.


  1. Remarkable. The President's favorite jump shooter has found a new policy-based low.