Why Do We Want Teachers to Stick Around Forever?

Why would we want a school system where essentially everyone over the age of thirty is a lifer, locked into a single district? It’s bad for labor mobility; it’s bad for the natural cross-fertilization of ideas that helps other professions advance; and it’s not so great for teachers unless they’re so incompetent that they couldn’t get a job anywhere else. The whole system where we get people to work at artificially low pay in the early years, in exchange for an outsized payoff that they can only collect by staying in the same system for most of their life, doesn’t seem destined to promote excellence.

Megan McArdle teases apart the American teacher compensation schemes. As former chancellor Joel Klein discovered in the NYC schools, the incentives for teachers and administrators are bad, very bad.

Highly recommended. And please do not miss the Joel Klein Atlantic essay The Failure of American Schools [June 2010].

4 thoughts on “Why Do We Want Teachers to Stick Around Forever?

  1. Thanks 10^6 for your comments and the RSA Animate link. We had not seen the Dan Pink talk. Andrew Park’s RSA animations are great – no doubt you have already seen Sir Ken Robinson’s animation.

    The big delay at our end has been to find some bandwidth to download the video. Internet access should be ubiquitous like oxygen – but is not at the RYCT (Hobart).

    To your point – absolutely agreed that the fundamental problems with US K-12 education are not compensation – they are structural, beginning with the state monopoly. Certainly my mention of bad incentives could be read as bad compensation. I’m confident that what Klein and McArdle had in mind was the whole institutional scheme, which frustrates Pink’s desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

    The monopolist’s rents collected by the US public K-12 institutions explain why costs are crippling state and local governments, while performance is shockingly bad. In the Freakonomics Radio podcast “How Is a Bad Radio Station Like Our Public-School System?” the analogy is drawn of a NYC “Superintendent of Food” controlling all of the cities restaurants where you have to eat “for free”. Yum…

  2. And what happens to your livelihood when angry older teachers who know how to write and who can see more than one side to an argument start to leave the schools where they have been paid a pittance for their good work and take their skills into Internet blogging? The arrogance of so-called “private sector” entrepreneurs is boundless.

Comments are closed.