Friday, September 21, 2012

Do Teachers Affect Outcomes and are Evaluations Fair?

Adam Ozimek raises an interesting question.
Teachers often argue that factors affecting educational outcomes are exactly those factors that occur outside of school.  In other words, home life, parents' value of education, parents income, etc are greater predictors of educational attainment than anything teachers contribute.  Diane Ravitch, a strong proponent of teachers, takes this position now, but less than 10 years ago she was touting strict teacher evaluations, school choice, and No Child Left Behind.

Many studies in economics show that outcomes in lifetime earnings, education, and other socioeconomic factors are determined by parental outcomes in the same category.  Still other studies show that these things are primarily impacted by IQ (a measure of learning ability or talent).  So, if the biggest predictors of educational attainment are factors outside of school such has home life, IQ, parental income and education, and teachers are quick to point out that these factors are beyond anything they can control or negate, then why is the debate about teachers at all?  Higher salaries, better classrooms, stricter standards, teacher evaluations, etc are all irrelevant to the factors that teachers say matter most.

Ravitch says that the real goals should focus on jobs in the community, poverty reduction, hunger abatement, etc.  Then, maybe the students educational attainments will follow.  Now, we just need to give everyone a job, eliminate poverty, and feed everyone and make sure they don't make any bad decisions that hinder these goals.  In case you're new to my blog, I don't think this is possible in a free society since it would be impossible without just enslaving everyone and making their decisions for them.  Free societies allow people to make their own decisions and people with poor decision-making skills sometimes make bad decisions with negative consequences.

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