His article says some things in it that are hard for me to agree with, because they somewhat strike at my self-interest: he talks about reducing job security and benefits for teachers and increasing class sizes. And he says some things that are easy for me to agree with, because they advance my self-interest: he talks about, well, paying teachers more.
Overall I’d be totally willing to sacrifice job security in favor of higher wages. I do think that small class sizes are conducive to differentiated instruction; if you increase class sizes, each student will get correspondingly less individual attention. I don’t know whether it’d be worth it in order to get the trade-off of attracting many higher-caliber teachers, but it’s not an idea to dismiss out of hand.
I’d be very interested to see some number-crunching. If we were to pay starting teachers the 40% more he suggests in order to fill the positions with top-of-their-class college grads, what would that look like for state and local taxes?
And some of his claims strike me as suspect. He says, for example, that four consecutive years of the best 25% of teachers would eliminate the black-white achievement gap. Is he assuming that only the low-performing students would get those great teachers, and the high-performing students would get the crappier teachers? Is he suggesting that the best teachers focus all their attention on struggling students, leaving the good students to fend for themselves? Or is he suggesting some mysterious mechanism through which, under a great teacher, external factors such as home environment (hours of sleep each night, nutrition, support with homework, development of work habits via required chores, level of physical and emotional security in the home, etc.) stop having any impact on kids, leaving everything up to the teacher? I just don’t buy it.