Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Privatizing education

I have been thinking about  privatizing education, mostly because I believe this is what is behind the attack on unions.  It isn't an attack on education per se, but with how education is delivered. It is not an assault on teachers per se, it is a full scale offensive on acquiring the right to fire ALL teachers.

Getting costs on labor under control, to borrow that phrase, is an excuse to lower education costs such that states can issue vouchers. Vouchers which can be used so that students can pick the "best" schools and go to them. As if this is even a solution. Can you imagine if everyone wanted to go to the "best" school? Shouldn't they all be good? The only real option is specialization. But even the high school level is too early for specialization.

After careful consideration, I think we would end up with the same problems. Labor costs are not going to go away. More kids require more teachers. More kids require more buildings. More buildings and more teachers  require more money. Its not a labor problem. Its a population problem.

Idaho has taken some bold steps. This includes stripping tenure, increasing pay and increasing classroom size to compensate. They are also going to offer bonuses for performance. How exactly do you increase student performance while adding more students?

To borrow some of the economic terms, have these people really assessed the indirect cost? Teachers who love to teach will HAVE to work harder to maintain performance with larger class sizes. More brains in the room demand more teaching time since the old methods don't have an efficiency rating of 100 percent. May be something in the forties. Which forces an innovation component to teacher prep. This alone is time consuming because it relies more on the delivery than the long term plan. The more focus on delivery the less time you have to advance through the material you wish to teach. And the more methods you use to deliver to reach a wider audience, the more short term a teacher is forced to consider. Diminishing returns springs to mind.

The other indirect cost is the loss of older more experienced teachers. What if you have a bad year as an older teacher? Will they even consider your body of work or just label you as ineffective? Experience is difficult to quantify. There is a collective classroom management skill to consider, not to mention the skill of dealing with individual problems from student issues to teacher issues.

So without tenure or job security, what will teachers resort to? They will be virtually forced to teach testing skills to keep their job. Skills that have absolutely nothing to do with LEARNING. Education hinges on class size and quality of teachers. But sometimes you have to have bad teachers to know what good teachers do so well. There needs to be perspective. I could not possibly imagine a school where every teacher was rated as "A" level. There are just too many different learning styles and personality types and preferences for how students learn and who they learn it from.

The public model is not failing. Just our ability to cope with the actual problems of an increasing populous and rising costs.

The legislation looks more like self sabotage.