So, I keep up on education. But with all my reading and high level of interest, what I've never understood is why schools aren't run after business models. Jay Matthews, at the Washington Post recently did an article discussing Schools of Education (or Ed Schools, as they are referred to). He writes
[A]growing number of educators say ed schools fail to give teachers enough background in their subject matter, fail to prepare them for the difficulties of urban schools and fail to recruit the best students.
Matthews goes on to say that principals are, by and large, dissastisfied with the level of preparation achieved by their recent ed school graduates and some are looking towards people who come from other sources.
This is where business models seem to scream out to me, "try this for education!" Think about your current job. Then think about your undergraduate experience. How many of your classes directly relate to your current job? (And for my brother-in-law, the accountant, just be quiet, you'll ruin my whole theory.) My bet is, not very many.
Oh there are areas (such as accounting) where specific data is critical. And if you want to be an engineer, you better know some math. And I'm definitely not saying that medical school is not necessary for doctors. But, I am talking about the majority of the white collar workforce.
Being in Human Resources, I have access to data about all employees, including information on their degrees. It's all over the map. There are English majors in Finance and Finance majors in HR. There are nurses in marketing and liberal arts majors in IS. How on earth did all these people get proficient in their jobs without a specific education? They learned on the job.
My first HR job, my boss pointed to a woman and said, "She's the head of HRIS." I nodded, but had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. (For those of you, not in in HR--HRIS is HR Information Systems--it's the techy side of HR, where I have made most of my career.) I had to ask what an "exempt" employee was. Did I know the rules regarding records retention? Absolutely not. I learned it all on the job.
When I hired people that were to report to me, my criteria was that they were smart and willing to learn. I didn't require a degree from a specific school in a specific major. In fact, the job postings said "Degree in Business, Human Resources, Social Sciences, Computer Science, liberal arts or similar." Can you get any more open and inclusive then that? I got great employees that way.
So, back to ed schools. Teach For America sends teachers with minimal training into schools. My question, is how do they compare with the the teachers trained by ed schools? If it's the same or better, then why are we spending money on ed schools?
And then there is the money factor. First of all, I am not in any way advocating that more money be spent on education. We are all going broke paying for public education. What I want is a re-allocation of money. We average $8,287 per student in the US. At 22 students per class, that $182,314 per year. Give me that much money, I'll pay a teacher a great salary, build a school, buy textbooks and still have enough left over to give me a nice little bonus.
Unless you either a. loved children more than anything in the world or b. couldn't get a job doing anything else or c. had other sources of income, why would you teach? Admins in my department (college degree not required) make more than new teachers. Any business person will tell you that you have to offer the right salary to attract the right people.
Business people will also tell you that you need the ability to fire. Teachers are notoriously difficult to fire. (Read this if you don't believe me.)
I admit, I don't know everything there is to know about education. And yes, I've read the blueberry analogy and I think it's a false one. And please note, I have said nothing about test scores. That's for another post on another day.