Friday, June 5, 2009

Thoughts on Fixing Education - II

A teacher at the TEP Charter School in NYC. (photo source: NY Times)

Will education improve if teachers have higher salaries??

A lot of people think that improving salaries will attract more talent into the teaching pool. I have my own thoughts on it; I think the system is a little more complicated. For example, some of my favorite teachers were kicked out by the university or school system because of their unorthodox teaching styles (think Dead Poets Society). Or its often hard to even become a teacher. Even with my university teaching experience and my graduate degrees that allow expertise in much-needed subjects like math and science, I've had trouble breaking into the teaching system in the US. The school districts in my area desperately need math and science teachers; but they require a Teaching Credential or a Graduate degree in Education in order to teach. This means an additional 1-2 years of education that I don't want to deal with now (particularly since I've already taught in university). Even to be a substitute teacher, requires me to pass an exam. I understand that rules are there for a reason, but it is a little ridiculous that a qualified and enthusiastic person cannot fill in an immediate need. This is just ONE of the systemic changes that need to be addressed. No wonder charter schools are popping up constantly, hoping to bypass these ridiculous rules to test out their theories of improving education.

This morning, the NYTimes put out a great article on a new charter school that is popping up in New York City. Started by a young educational entrepreneur, the school aims to test out whether better salaried teachers will mean better students. Of course, the $125,000 salaries come at a price; but it is very interesting. And I'd be curious to know what the results will be. Somehow I think the students and teachers will both come out for the better. But is this scalable or replicable?? I don't know.

Zeke Vanderhoek, the Founder and Principal of the Equity School (the charter school), went on a personal hunt for the best teachers from across the country. How many can actually do that?? And you have to really HATE learning in order to fail under Kobe Bryant's personal trainer, or a teacher who was a class clown.

Still, this is a great case study, and I wish Vanderhoek the very best.

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