Education Gadfly is amused to see various groups claim credit for the rise in NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) reading and math scores for elementary students. Gadfly notes a strange analysis in a New York Times editorial, which stressed there’s been little progress at the middle and high school level.
But the strangest interpretation of the NAEP long-term trend results must come from the Grey Lady herself, the New York Times, whose editorial page theorized that “the constant flow of data that shows poor and diminished performance in middle schools and high schools” is caused by school systems “placing their most well-trained and experienced teachers in the early grades, a strategy that means the teachers become less and less qualified over all as the students move up the grades.” Not even a shred of proof is adduced, but hey, when you’re the Times, who needs evidence?
The Times editorial board must not have anyone who knows much about education. This is an obvious error. Secondary and elementary teachers aren’t switched back and forth at will. Secondary teachers are credentialed to teach a particular subject; elementary teachers earn an all-subject credential.
There are more would-be kindergarten teachers than high school physics teachers out there, so the elementary ranks are more likely to be credentialed, which is what the Times means by “qualified.” The real problem is that public schools don’t pay a premium for teachers with skills that are in high demand, and rarely compensate teachers for taking difficult assignments or for teaching well. We don’t get what we don’t pay for.