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Ear to the Ground

Beware of Arne Duncan’s Tricks

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Posted on Mar 9, 2011
White House / Pete Souza

President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speak to sixth-grade students at Graham Road Elementary School in Falls Church, Va.

The statistical evidence is that smaller class size means better education, but smaller class size also means higher taxes. So Education Secretary Arne Duncan chose trickery to divert parents from the clear road.

At a recent meeting of governors in Washington he suggested that they pay bonuses to the best teachers if they agree to increase their class size. Duncan would prefer to put his own school-age children in a classroom with 28 students led by a “fantastic teacher” rather than in one with 23 and a “mediocre” teacher, he said.

But what parent wouldn’t? If large class size becomes the sign of a good teacher, no doubt all parents will insist that their child be placed in the largest class that a school has to offer. Unable to fit all students in just one class, however, principals will declare all teachers fantastic and assign large classes to all.

And the beauty of it is that the demand for large classes will come from the parents themselves. Clever, huh?

(For a discussion of the statistical evidence, go to the chapter “You Can’t Throw Money at Education” in my book, “Economics for the Rest of Us” pp. 97-106.)

Moshe Adler teaches economics at Columbia University and at the Harry Van Arsdale Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College.

—Posted by Moshe Adler.

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By Ulyanov, October 16, 2011 at 8:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“those that can, teach,....those that can’t, make the education laws and programs
that teachers have to follow”

is this a stupid country or what!

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By Blackspeare, March 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

There’s another way to achieve better education without the need to raise any additional funding or add to the teaching staff.  Just extend the school day.  Have teachers and school management work a full day.  The additional two hours will be a boon to educational needs not to mention the benefit to working families who could now pick up their kids on the way home from work.  I have no qualms that the various teachers’ unions would be more than happy to agree to this simple yet effective productivity measure.

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By cjbgreen, March 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

More corporate horrific lies spoken by a non-educator.  But lets take
their illogical argument and apply it to other professions, do I want to be treated by a doctors or nurses with huge
caseloads, no.  Would I hire an attorney with a huge caseload and presume my case would receive adequate attention,  no.  But then Arne isn’t an educator and does not respect the profession.  I seriously believe that TFA and Arne believe that if you are smart (meaning you attended Harvard and you scored well on SAT’s) you can work in any profession and are above degrees and certification.  As a superior being, you should be exempt from these bureaucratic regulations and should not be required to earn an advance degree and certification.

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