LA Story

Back from LA. Red-eye. Mistake. This should probably be in our Ed School curriculum. Never take a red-eye. You think you're being efficient. But you don't really sleep on the plane. It screws you up for 2 days. Anyway, conference ground rules: nothing on the record. So while I can't attribute anything, this story piqued my interest.

One former superintendent, asked about Ed Schools, said that she went to each of the 4 or so main ones that supplied her district, and said:

School A, I want more of your teachers. Schools B and C, I don't want your people any more. You train them badly. School D, I actually like your teachers that get trained by Professor Smith. However, those trained by Professor Jones really struggle, because he teaches them some crazy ideas that never work in real life. So get your act together. I'm a customer, and I want to be treated like a valued customer.

I found that impressive.

Now hers was a fairly small district. Even a city like Boston, which is not considered a huge urban district, hires 500 teachers in a typical year. In Houston it's probably 2,000. That's too many for a supe to personally know which Ed Schools generate good teachers.

But with Race To The Top pushing states to generate data about Ed School alums, I'd imagine there will be more of those conversations. Fueled by data. Superintendent is customer. Ed School dean is vendor. And what is the customer? Always right.

A number of Ed Schools are saying "We need to do a better job of understanding the situation on the ground, in the trenches, and then change our program accordingly." That is good. But demand side pressure would help them change more quickly.

This might sound onerous to Ed Schools. They'd happily listen, no doubt, to the opinions of a superintendent. But to treat him/her like a customer? Might be anathema. Academic freedom. Or what if they simply don't respect the supe? These are legit concerns.

For the concerned Ed School, there is a silver lining, though. Ed Schools tend to be cash strapped (alumni don't have big $ to give). Teach For America charges districts about $2,000 per year for two years. I think it varies by geography. $4,000 total. That's because they have a product/brand that superintendents want.

If I were the dean of Ed School A above, or of a school that had very high marks on value-added data, I might say to the Supe: "Great. Glad you want more of our grads. We'd love you to pay a finders fee."

Randall just looked up from his laptop and told me: "Finders fees wouldn't work easily in Boston, where there's a saturation of teacher supply. But in Tulsa? Houston? Greenboro? Yup."