Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's the Lake Wobegon Effect: Almost All Public School Teachers Are Way Above Average

David Whitman, in his book "Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism," reports that in Chicago, from 2003 through 2006, just three of every 1,000 teachers received an "unsatisfactory" rating in annual evaluations; in 87 "failing schools" -- with below average and declining test scores -- 69 had no teachers rated unsatisfactory; in all of Chicago, just nine teachers received more than one unsatisfactory rating and none of them was dismissed.

From George Will's column in today's Washington Post


At 8/24/2008 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Will seems to be comparing a charter school that is selective in picking its students and a public school that must take all students regardless of their problems or motivation. How can it be surprising that the outcomes are more favorable from a non-random sampling?

As far as his remark about deadwood union members, I think most studies show that the ratio of administrators and teachers has exploded over the last twenty or thirty years in the administrators' favor.

Maybe the deadwood needs to be pruned from the top. After all, who is hiring these undesirable teachers and why? People don’t just suddenly turn “bad” without a good reason. Either good people are not hired in the first place or support mechanisms are not in place to take care of problems after the hiring process is complete. Any business with an abundance of poor employees has bigger issues than the employees as the root cause of the breakdown in the process.

At 8/25/2008 12:47 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

walt, not to support your "teachers don't need pruning" meme, but I do concur, the amount of public education funds going to pay for "administration" is certainly something to be attacked.

Put me in charge at any county as an absolute dictator. I'll fix 'em, and fast.

At 8/25/2008 6:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I didn't say teachers don't need pruning; just start with the biggest problems first.

What is missing here is the wealth of data that show there are many well performing public school districts. If you want to see the real problem, compare schools with few students receiving free lunches to the schools where the majority of students receive free lunches. Possibly the job is so difficult that these school districts have problems generating a large enough applicant pool to hire from. In that case, it's not surprising that a break down in the hiring process leads to teacher problems. Does anyone really believe that churning employees will solve these problems?

Most complaints about public school systems are actually union complaints in disguise. The problem with that is the students are not the focus of the problem-solving process. Why waste time worrying about whether teachers are organized or not when that is not the real problem?

At 8/25/2008 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yet it is the teachers unions that oppose pay for performance and bonuses for teaching in underperforming schools. How is that not a problem?

Union leaders do this in the face of many of their members who favor one or both of these programs.

At 8/25/2008 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Teachers' unions will not oppose pay increases anywhere or anytime. Just offer it and see.

Pay for performance. How will that work? Will the principal who can't get in the cute teacher's pants be doing the rating? How will the superintendent’s teaching son be rated? Will the teacher who has the most difficult students receive a lower rating? Measuring teacher performance is a lot more difficult than putting a car on a dynamometer and measuring horsepower.

Some of the top performing schools nationally are union organized. I am not saying unions do not have problems; I just hate to see so much time and talent wasted on peripheral problems. If unions were completely eliminated tomorrow, the core educational problems would still remain.

At 8/25/2008 6:09 PM, Blogger bobble said...

MP excepted, i'd like to see the public education whiners on this blog try to last two days as a public school teacher.

and, professor perry, aren't you a public school teacher? no union i suspect. but i'll bet you have tenure. so you couldn't be dismissed either.

i've been hearing how terrible our public schools are for 50+ years now. yet during that time we went to the moon and beyond (numerous times), and saw vast improvements in all areas of science.

looking at the stinking mess the banks and the rest of the economy is in, i'll admit that in finance, business, and economics the education process could use a lot of improvement.


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