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Education Wed Nov 12 2008
Richard Cohen, op-ed columnist from the Washington Post, offers his endorsement for the Secretary of Education...NYC School Chancellor (nominal reform of "superintendent") Joel Klein, due to his pro-merit pay stance. He argues that this appointment will mean that Obama is showing his ability to triangulate by throwing teachers unions (many of whom endorsed him) under the bus:
Teachers unions -- another Democratic Party interest group -- hate merit pay, so here's another opportunity for Obama to prove his mettle. The object is to reverse the current situation, in which most teachers are recruited from the bottom quarter of college classes, and instead go for the top quarter -- as do Finland and South Korea, two countries with excellent education systems.
Cohen double-dog-dares Obama into "testing his mettle" by opposing teachers unions. I cannot locate where he found the statistic that teachers are recruited "from the bottom quarter of college classes" (seriously, if this report exists, I am interested in reading it), but his claim of merit pay is a falsehood. Many teachers unions do in fact oppose merit pay schemes in the model proposed by the business community, but are currently researching alternatives.
It's interesting to note that a more nuanced version of merit pay, National Board Certification, is not only endorsed by many unions, the Chicago Teachers Union's Quest Center actually pays the tuition to "test the mettle" of experienced educators to matriculate in the program.
National Board Certification is a rigorous, voluntary program that monitors and verifies the quality of teachers. In some districts (like CPS) teachers passing the boards get a handsome bump in pay. This idea was initiated by past president of the American Federation of Teachers, the late Al Shanker.
It's also interesting to note that Kaplan, Inc. is a for-profit subsidiary of The Washington Post [PDF]. Kaplan is a highly profitable provider of test-preparation materials (the ones that prepare students for the high-stakes tests that lead to school closings) and scripted curriculum. Kaplan also provides "Supplementary Education Services" to schools, as required by the No Child Left Behind law.
This begs the question: Why aren't corporations that profit from policy considered "interest groups" in Mr. Cohen's estimation? Kaplan, Inc. is a lobbying powerhouse. It must be a question of who signs the paychecks.
Up next...be on the lookout for "Renaissance 2015."