Seven Ideas

John Merrow is a great education reporter. His latest column -- Six Premises, Seven Ideas -- challenges Ed Schools. (He's a grad of Harvard's and on the board of Teachers College). He writes:

Premise No. 3: The old way of paying teachers -- based on years of service and graduate credits -- is dying, with only the date of death yet to be decided. That means the end of a 'cash cow' for the schools and colleges of education that now get a lot of cash from teachers who take a course here and there to get a pay boost.

Moreover, no reputable school of education can afford to be seen as hanging on to this way of doing business just because it's currently profitable. In some districts, contracts are being negotiated that 'front-load' the rewards, a practice in countries and regions that are now outperforming the United States.

I agree that our k-12 system would benefit from very different pay structures. Whether major change is a "certainty," I don't know (see Terry Moe's new book).

A Merrow Idea:

7. Payment: Because the old way of paying teachers is dying, graduate schools of education must get out in front on this issue as well. They should be able to say "Because you are attending our graduate school, you will be a BETTER teacher, and therefore will make more money under the new system."

Yes, Yes, Yes. In the coming years, our grad school business model will go through its planned change -- from start-up (philanthropists underwrite every teacher) to demand side (customers begin to pay). Right now, we're able to deliver results both to the school which hires an MTR teacher (willing to pay us a fee) and to the trainees (very high success rate in getting jobs for our teachers, in a particular type of charter school). We specialize.

Merrow is right that reform, in the long run, needs incentives to line up. Right now, the Ed School marketplace is strange.

NCTQ's Arthur McKee points out:

The Michigan Education Association estimates that only a third of the approximately 7,500 teachers who graduate from the state's preparation programs actually find work in the state. Most of these graduates come from the state's taxpayer-subsidized colleges and universities. And yet, (state school chief Michael) Flangan notes, the overall talent level of new teachers is not where it should be to help Michigan's students.

Michigan isn't alone. Nationally, only around 40% of the 235,000 graduates of teacher preparation programs are hired immediately after getting certified.

Hmm. The tuition continues to flow in. There's not enough jobs for the graduates. At some point, we'd expect this higher ed bubble to break.

Merrow believes: it's coming sooner rather than later for Ed Schools. But for now, with a bubble in the market, what can a policymaker do?

“I’ve written to all the deans” of the education schools, Flanagan said. He’s hoping to meet with them this fall to talk about his goals and concerns.

And if colleges don’t listen to what he has to say, Flanagan added, he will remind them of his authority to certify — and de-certify — teacher education programs.

Saber-rattling? I dunno if that will work.

Back to Merrow:

"Agents of change and inspiration:" Visits to the campus by people like Sir Ken Robinson and Tim Brown of IDEO, who will spend a week (at the very least) in close contact with students. For this series to be meaningful, the graduate school must host at least five of these thought leaders every year. Each of these bright lights will be paid handsomely for their week and will be expected to be enthusiastic and responsive. This is the epitome and exemplar of "Nimble."

I like the notion. But the cost is kinda scary. Guys like this get $10k to give a talk. Hire them for a week, multiply by 5? Yikes.

One step would be for their classes to meet AT the public schools where the education students are doing their practicum. And -- to repeat myself -- much, much more training of the fledgling teachers must occur in real schools!

Ding, ding.

Read the whole Merrow colum here.