Archive for June 24, 2010

Paying teachers for merit only works if you can measure merit

One of the most critical issues for secondary school CS education is teachers.  Whether we’re creating technology to teach, or whether we’re trying to reach CS10K, the issue is creating enough good teachers to ramp up computing education.  To emphasize, the goal is creating enough good teachers.  We still have a big problem measuring “good.”

One of the nation’s most ambitious efforts to link teacher compensation to student achievement has done little to improve test scores or retain teachers at participating Chicago Public Schools, according to a report released Tuesday.

More than three years after the pilot program was announced to great fanfare by Mayor Richard Daley and former schools chief Arne Duncan, now U.S. education secretary, selected schools are performing no differently than schools that did not implement the program, according to the research group Mathematica.

via Merit pay system found to make no difference at Chicago Public Schools – chicagotribune.com.

The key insight to this paper comes later in the article:

“Fundamentally, you still have the same performance evaluation and the same compensation system that every other school has,” said Alicia Winckler, the chief of human capital at the school district. “Until you really change the base structures, I don’t anticipate we’ll see different outcomes.”

This makes sense to me.  Economics says that you get what you reward.  If you can’t measure real teacher merit, then you’re not rewarding what you want.  You’re encouraging a construct, a desire to do better at the merit measures.  Until we know how to measure what being a “good teacher” means, paying for merit may not work.

June 24, 2010 at 11:00 am 4 comments

How much does undergraduate education really cost?

Interesting analysis suggesting that undergraduate education actually costs much less than undergraduates and the state are charged, so increasing enrollment would actually buoy up university’s bottomlines.  Now that might not actually work, because much of what universities actually pay for has little to do with education:

If public universities are really committed to promoting access, affordability, and quality, they should consider increasing their funding by accepting more undergraduate students instead of raising tuition and restricting enrollments. While many would argue that higher education institutions are already unable to deal with the students they currently enroll, in reality, it costs most public research universities very little to educate each additional student, and the main reason why institutions claim that they do not get enough money from state funds and student dollars is that they make the students and the state pay for activities that are not directly related to instruction and research….

This means that most of the money coming from undergraduate students and the state is used to pay for sponsored research, graduate education, administration, and extracurricular activities. Furthermore, the main reason why the cost for instruction is so low is that research universities rely on large classes and inexpensive non-tenured faculty and graduate students to teach most of their undergraduate courses. However, my point is not that states or students shouldn’t support the full range of activities that universities pursue; rather, I am arguing that the best way to make up for the loss of state funding is to enroll more students.

via Views: The Solution They Won’t Try – Inside Higher Ed.

Contrast this with this interview with University of Georgia’s president:

Q: UGA recently accepted another freshman class. How much do you hear from parents of rejected students who say my son or daughter grew up wanting to go to Athens?

A: I hear it a lot. You especially don’t want to be me in April. Unfortunately, we turned down about 12,000 Georgia students this year. But we’ve stretched about as much as we can stretch. In my 13 years here, we’ve grown the freshman class from about 3,800 to roughly 5,000. We’re much larger now than Chapel Hill [University of North Carolina]. We’re much larger than Virginia. We think we have just about optimized the number of students that we can serve.

June 24, 2010 at 10:57 am 6 comments


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