Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Education in the news

The Democratic candidates are finally getting their education plans out, and Edwards plans to create a corps of quality teachers. According to his website, "He will also create a National Teacher University – a West Point for teachers – to recruit 1,000 top college students a year, train them to be excellent teachers, and encourage them to teach where they are needed the most." (From JohnEdwards.com; seen first at Inside Higher Ed.)

What puzzles me about this plan is, In what way is this like West Point, other than that it is national? Is it going to include a rigorous physical program, uniforms, and a military atmosphere? I doubt it. Perhaps admission will require nomination by a senator or other such personage; will this aura of selectivity really draw the best and brightest into teaching? Perhaps the academic program will be challenging and rigorous - but if that's the only shared quality with West Point, we might as well compare this proposed academy to MIT instead. But, I know, you need to package this as a Big Vision.

I wonder, though, what the chances of this revolutionizing teaching are. What is the likelihood these graduates act like members of Teach For America - they teach a year or two before doing something else, because they are bright, the job is depressing, and almost anything else pays better?

In other news, here is one of those clever ideas economists come up with: a better way to measure graduation rates.

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