Edupessimism Gone Too Far?

Kevin Carey says I’m too pessimistic about the prospects for giving schools the resources they need to implement the sort of reforms discussed by Paul Tough as ways to bring high-poverty schools up to par, citing examples from Massachusetts and Maryland (and possibly soon New York) of school finance reforms.

Jal Mehta, by contrast, is relatively pessimistic, saying “we still know more about creating more good schools than we do about creating good school systems” worrying that “it seems equally likely that the key ingredients that make a place like KIPP work are not easily replicable: strong leadership and teachers who are not only talented, but are willing to work 15–16 hours days plus weekends to bring their students up to standards of proficiency.”

To focus on just one central aspect of creating good schools, how could we create 3,000,000 KIPP teachers? This is a complicated and ongoing conversation, but the only obvious answer is pay — people in our society who are attractive job candidates coming out of college and work 15–16 hour days generally command salaries of $80,000 and up, which would mean a radical shift in our national priorities. Perhaps this could be coupled with some form of differentiated pay, which would make it slightly more affordable and more tenable to conservatives, but it is still a utopian enough idea to be outside of the current policy conversation.

On a more optimistic note, this presumably isn’t a totally binary conversation and making progress on smaller scales might build political support for doing more.