The Great Teaching Shortage: A Freakonomics Analysis, Why National Education Policies Will Drive Teachers Away.

“All our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody’s allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook.”
– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, Ch. 16
From Madison Wisconsin to Camden New Jersey governors are attempting to strip teachers of collective bargaining. From the US Department of Education to the so-called education reformers, from Mayor Bloomberg to the Tea Party Express, the long established traditional benefits of teachers are in danger of being dismantled. Tenure and salary determined by student test scores, seniority replaced by principal judgment, defined benefit pension plans replaced by 401k teacher self-funded accounts, and, hopefully, for the deciders, the teaching force being drawn from the top echelons of college graduating classes,
Public schools, charter schools and private schools will be competing for vouchers, a market-driven system in which the “successful” schools survive and the “failing” schools perish
Teachers freed of “contractual constraints” negotiating individual contracts based upon their abilities measured by student test scores and the laws of supply and demand
Will this “Brave New World”  retain and attract great teachers?
The fallacy of the Duncan “Quest for the Great Teacher” theory might be investigated by Freakonomics.

Through forceful storytelling and wry insight, Levitt and Dubner show that economics is, at root, the study of incentives—how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing.

What unites all these stories is a belief that the modern world, despite a great deal of complexity and downright deceit, is not impenetrable, is not unknowable, and—if the right questions are asked—is even more intriguing than we think. All it takes is a new way of looking.

Freakonomics establishes this unconventional premise: If morality represents how we would like the world to work, then economics represents how it actually does work …. It will literally redefine the way we view the modern world.

I postulate the Duncan/Ed Reform agenda will inversely impact student achievement, his agenda will drive away newer teachers and high quality prospective teachers.
The core of the Duncan/Ed Reform agenda is a disincentive to the very teachers, the top graduates of elite colleges, the creative thinkers who will positively impact teaching and learning.
Eric Nadelstern muses,
“Ultimately the principals I respect most are the principals who have historically practiced creative noncompliance,” he said.
“Essentially, the strategy I used during my 17 years as a principal was regardless of departmental policy, I would do what was in the best interest of my school and my students. Sometimes that coincides and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Eric, I agree, and the teachers I respect, the brightest, the most dedicated, the most effective for the students also practiced “creative noncompliance.”  They found schools and principals that allowed them to be creative, defined as positively impacting the students in their classes.
“Creative noncompliance” has become an illusion.
Schools are measured solely by numerical metrics, test scores and credit accumulation against supposedly similar schools. There are no curriculum standards, no agreed upon validated methodology. Teachers are ordered to differentiate instruction, to use the workshop model, integrate formative assessments, without evidence that these “ideas du jour” work.
Rubin Brosbe, a newer teacher and Community poster at Gotham Schools was informed that his class was at the bottom of the grade on an interim assessment and met with his assistant principal,
For some reason I expected a little positive reinforcement, then a discussion of next steps. Instead, after 40 minutes of grilling on differentiation, lesson planning, and guided reading I felt exhausted, frustrated, and humiliated.
Rubin’s feelings are commonplace.
* 83% of Teacher for America teachers nationwide leave within three years.
* 42% of teachers in NYC, in this economy, leave within five years.
* “Higher achieving” teachers leave lower SES (socio-economic status) schools and move to higher SES schools. (see research here)
The most effective teachers who transfer tend to go to schools whose faculties are in the top quartile of teacher quality.
Teachers seek security, success, collegiality and power over their own professional judgments.
Clearly enunciated rules perceived as “fair” by teachers are essential. The current movement to deprive teachers of tenure and tie dismissal and compensation rules to opaque metrics and the whim of principals is a disincentive to entering and remaining in the field of teaching.
Unless your class shows continuing progress, in spite of the world surrounding your students , you are a failure. It’s all about “the numbers.”
Teaching is isolating, it is the enlightened school that creates space to collaborate with colleagues, for too many teachers the “rule” is figure it out for yourself or fail.
Teachers “professional judgment” is discouraged or punished. Schools tend to buy some package and force teachers into the model. (example: The Teacher’s College Lucy Calkins Writing Project).
Scattered around the 1600-school system are isolates, schools and clusters of schools in which teachers can learn and thrive, they exist “under the radar.”
For the vast majority of schools in NYC and urban centers around the country policies are driving college graduates away from teaching. As governors, legislators, so-called school reformers, seeming on a soma high, see teachers as automatons, adrift in a free market sea passively following orders.
When the dust settles the decision-makers will be wondering: where are all the teachers?

8 responses to “The Great Teaching Shortage: A Freakonomics Analysis, Why National Education Policies Will Drive Teachers Away.

  1. Jackie Foil Retired

    What school systems will be left with are probably people who could find no other jobs. Lack of respect & compensation do not bode well for a profession!!
    Intelligent professionals will seek a profession that values them.


  2. And so, it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy; in the future, if you teach, it means you could not get any other (good) jobs, therefore you must not be a competent professional, so the management is obligated to (and will) treat you like dirt. This is not a good outcome for professionals, or for society.


  3. I agree with Jackie and Andy. So why is this course of action by the fat cats happening? If you are a parent and can’t get a decent place anywhere to educate your kids–you push for Federal funding for private, parochial, and ideologically based schools that conform to what YOU want, and the melting pot we know as the USA starts to radicalize and fragment.

    A good place to pull the wool over the eyes of the populace. Example: the ultra poor in the Middle East blaming everyone but the rich Sheiks controlling them for the conditions they are in.

    An ideal environment to do the self centered, self aggrandizing, business of the uber rich


  4. Great post and very insightful. I agree completely. Too bad the media fails to see this.


  5. Pingback: Remainders: Dems pressure Cuomo to undo school cuts | GothamSchools

  6. Pingback: Online Education in America » Blog Archive » Remainders: Dems pressure Cuomo to undo school cuts

  7. James F. Mothersbaugh, Jr.

    Where’s Lee Iacocca when you need him?


  8. (83% of Teacher for America teachers nationwide leave within three years.)
    I knew the numbers were bad, but I would have never guessed they were this bleak.


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