Tuesday, February 08, 2005


This week, Go Big Ed will address how we could save money in our schools if we would change the way we run them and teach kids.

Today’s topic: teacher’s colleges, certification and continuing education. You know the adage, “Education is people”? Well, “overspending is people,” too. A huge cause of inefficient use of resources in K-12 education is the wrong people with the wrong training doing the wrong things for the wrong compensation. Some major changes are needed in this area to put things right.

Q. How can we improve the qualifications of people who go into teaching, and to reward better teachers with higher pay?

Get rid of the union, of course. It’s an unnecessary anachronism that’s blocking progress.

But also, we need to counteract the movement in recent decades to overcomplicate teaching. The education establishment has done it to justify higher salaries, more employees and more power for schools. They’ve shifted the focus from serving children’s needs to politics and policy.

Now we have teachers’ colleges that major in the minors, exaggerate educational psychology, and instead of exposing future teachers to the world of true academics, put them through dumb, endless “how to teach” courses.

Meanwhile, people who would be excellent classroom teachers don’t get there because of time-consuming and pointless state certification requirements.

Also, continuing education practices work at cross purposes to the goal of cost-effective excellence: longevity rather than merit as the determinant of salary . . . “seat time” for a master’s degree or doctorate also gains more pay but, like longevity, has no connection to better student achievement . . . national board certification is paid for by your district or state in the utter absence of evidence it makes better teachers . . . staff development inservice consultants preach narrow, Politically Correct perspectives that have nothing to do with expanding knowledge and skills.

Teachers will be the first to tell you that a lot of this is nuts and needs to be changed.

Here’s where to start: fold the teacher’s colleges into the colleges of arts and sciences, and encourage future teachers to take more science, history, English, mathematics and other knowledge-based subjects. Give knowledge-based competency exams to enter the teaching profession. Let districts set their own hiring qualifications, do on-the-job training, and offer mentoring programs. End certification; districts can do their own criminal background checks. Institute what the unions hate: merit pay, hiring bonuses, and differential pay for teaching jobs with more intensive preparation requirements or that are more in demand.

Homework: See the book, “Ed School Follies: The Miseducation of America’s Teachers” by Rita Kramer.

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