Wichita school district policy is misguided


John Merrow’s education blog has an interesting interview with Eric Hanushek, a leading education researcher. This interview shows just how misguided are the current current path and goals of USD 259, the Wichita public school district.

Readers may recall that last year, the Wichita school district convinced voters to approve a large bond issue, a large portion of which is to pay for new schools and more classrooms in existing schools. This is to implement the district’s goal of smaller class sizes.

What the district doesn’t realize — at least not publicly — is that class size is not important. Instead, the quality of teachers is much more important. Says Hanushek: “Much of the work that I have done has focused on teacher effectiveness. From this research I have concluded that teacher quality is the most important factor in determining how well a school will do. … Teacher quality is not captured by typically discussed characteristics of teachers such as master’s degrees, teaching experience, or even certification — things that states typically monitor. Requiring such things unrelated to student performance dilutes accountability and detracts from things that would make them more effective.”

In the Wichita school district, it should be noted, the only way for a teacher to advance in pay is through gaining education credentials and experience — precisely the things that don’t matter.

In response to a question about public education’s current model (a teacher and 25 or so students), Hanushek replied:

Indeed we are currently at pupil-teacher ratios that are less than 16-to-1. This quest has been very misguided. I believe it is sustainable, but I also believe it is quite mistaken. We need to put much more emphasis on the quality of teachers. To do this, we can and should be paying highly effective teachers substantially more than we do today. But part of the package is not paying high salaries equally to effective and ineffective teachers. There is a clear bargain here. Pay effective teachers what they are worth (think six-figure salaries) but also have them teach somewhat more kids. That model is easily supported. What is not supported is paying large salaries to both effective and ineffective teachers and also reducing class sizes.

The entire interview is at “Pay teachers what they are worth (think six-figures)”: An Interview with Rick Hanushek. The title of this article ought to give teachers a preview of what could possibly happen, if not for the policies of their union.


6 responses to “Wichita school district policy is misguided”

  1. Benjamin

    Solution: Send your kids to private schools or homeschool them.

  2. Scotty

    There is $300 billion available from the Department of Education in grants to districts that will pay bonuses to teachers based on achievement of measurable goals, such as student performance. Will our district apply for this money? Someone should ask.

    Benjamin: I assure you, some are qualified to homeschool and some really are not. Our best bet is to try to improve the public system even as we push for school choice, vouchers, and a multi-sector market for education. As soon as teachers, the lowest-paid licensed professionals in our society, are allowed the opportunity to work harder for more pay, you’ll see performance in public schools improve.

  3. Benjamin

    I understand that Scotty but you have to dig a little deeper to know what I am talking about. History books that don’t tell the real history . Books that have chapters in them all about a New World Order. Electives that teach the youth how to be good lil’ slaves at their jobs and even daycares. We need to get back to basics and get rid of all of the extra curricular activities.

  4. Scotty, I think your question is one that the teachers union needs to answer. Based on correspondence with the Wichita teachers union, I believe that the union will not allow any sort of differential pay to exist, unless there are so many conditions applied that its effect would be vanishingly small.

  5. […] factors in determining salary — experience and earned credentials — are rapidly being recognized as not useful in measuring teacher […]

  6. […] tell us that reducing teachers and increasing class sizes would be a disaster for children. But see this article and also this to learn how teacher effectiveness is much more important than class […]

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