How to get the best teachers

In The Best Teachers in the World, John Chubb advocates reconfiguring schools to make good use of teachers and technology, eliminating teacher licensing requirements and giving school principals increased responsibility for hiring, developing and retaining strong teachers.


There’s too much techno pie in the sky in John Chubb and Terry Moe’s Liberating Learning, writes Darren of Right on the Left Coast.  He doubts that “technology itself  can revolutionize education.”

Edison thought that the movie would do that, as every student could then have access to the best teachers on the planet via film; that hasn’t come to pass.

Darren remembers film strips and VCRs.

He also doubts “technology will provide information that cannot be ignored; transparency will be required by the public, and decisions will be made based on this more readily available data.”

 That may be true in the future, but I’ve seen no evidence of it yet here in California in the present day. Our schools publish “school report cards” and the state publishes test performance scores for each school–I haven’t seen a mad rush of people using this information to “improve” schools.

The book suggests teachers would play a variety of roles in the “brave new technological world.”

Some may work with students in computer labs, handling much larger classes than today’s teachers do (because the computers are taking over much of the actual teaching). Some may work with students online, but still do it in real time. Some may engage in distance learning but do it asynchronously (that is, not in real time). Some may work mainly with parents, monitoring student progress and assuring proper student oversight. Some may oversee or serve as mentors to the front-line teachers themselves.

It sounds good, Darren writes. But how realistic is it?

Technology, politics and change

Cyberschools, online classes and virtual tutoring may force change in public education argue Terry Moe and John Chubb in Liberating Learning.  The book looks at how technology shifts political power, writes James K. Glassman in a Wall Street Journal review:

Teachers unions, of course, are appalled. They know that “the new computer-based approaches to learning simply require far fewer teachers per student — perhaps half as many, and possibly fewer than that,” Messrs. Moe and Chubb write. Online charter schools employ two or three teachers per 100 students; the average public school employs 6.8 per 100. Technology also disperses teachers geographically (making them elusive for union organizers); lets in private-sector players who aren’t members of the guild; and enables outsourcing to foreign countries. For unions, technology is poison.

Moe and Chubb believe parents will demand access to online education.  School districts, hit by rising labor costs, will “turn to technology as a way to get more for less.” Glassman fears politics will trump productivity as office-holders consider “the election-time productivity of unions that help politicians get into office and stay there.”

Frontline’s Digital Nation is hosting a discussion tomorrow on education in the digital age.