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Education Reform
Buried Treasure in K-12

A new NBER paper, based on several years of data from the Washington, D.C. public school system, suggests that schools can dramatically improve educational quality simply by reforming their hiring processes to focus on criteria that have a proven correlation with teacher performance:

We find that several background characteristics (e.g., undergraduate GPA) as well as screening measures (e.g., applicant interview scores) strongly predict teacher effectiveness. [And yet] these measures are only weakly, if at all, associated with the likelihood of receiving a job offer or being hired. Our results suggests that there exists considerable scope for improving teacher quality through the selection process.

Significantly, the study found that raw number of years of experience—a metric often favored by teachers’ unions and administrators in setting hiring policy—had very little effect on teaching quality.

The study is still more evidence that we don’t need to choose between stagnant outcomes at low-performing schools and budget-busting spending increases. There is buried treasure in the K-12 system, if only we have the initiative to find it and put it to work.

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  • Beauceron

    On NYC subways right now they are running ads from the NYC public schools system requesting applications for teachers.

    Based on those ads, apparently one of the most important qualifications to be a NYC teacher is black or brown skin.

    • lurkingwithintent

      One look at an NEA mailing to union members is all one needs to see this is the case. There are good teachers, but the system is rotten to the core and makes their lives very difficult. My wife deals with these mailings properly when they arrive by recycling them.

      • Beauceron

        There are fantastic teachers. Both of my parents were public high school teachers.
        While there are many good, decent teachers, many are now political operatives– but more important is the system. The rot within the system is so deep now that in order to fix it, you would have to tear down the entire US educational structure down to the studs. That is not going to happen. So there needs to be alternatives.

  • rheddles

    I’ve suspected this ever since my wife, an honors graduate of Duke in economics with an additional teaching degree, was told in 2006 by a school principal that he would never hire her because she was too intelligent and could not identify with students who had difficulty learning. So I guess only dumb teachers are capable of teaching our increasingly dumb students.

  • Anthony

    Education at K-12 level assuming teacher quality and qualification is more art than science. Teaching is a tough profession and selection/entry criterion avails little predictive value beyond technical skill set.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    All that’s needed is commonsense to tell you that it’s the Teachers Labor Gang Monopolies (Unions) and the single payer Government Monopoly Public School System that are behind the steady decline of the K-12 system. Without the “Feedback of Competition” that provides both the Information and Motivation which forces continuous improvements in Quality, Service, and Price in free markets, the K-12 system will never get any better no matter how much money is thrown at it.

    • PoohBear57

      And no matter how much the curriculum is debased with Common Core.

  • Boritz

    “we don’t need to choose between stagnant outcomes at low-performing schools and budget-busting spending increases.”

    These have not been in conflict. We have mostly chosen both.

    • Thom Burnett

      Very well stated and much too true! 🙂

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