14 September 2011

PEG links

I have three tabs open in my browser to P.E. Gobry's blog, all of which point to interesting things.

Thing Number One: Grilled Cheese Entrepreneurship!

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Thing Number Two: Felix Salmon on what it takes to get licensed to process payments.

Some of my personal favorite flaming hoops of bureaucracy to jump through:
  • In order to check whether a given Social Security number belongs to a dead person — a basic security check — the US Department of Commerce will charge you rates starting at $995 per lookup, and rapidly rising to as much as $14,500.
  • When companies ask for a driver’s license, they currently have no way of checking online to see whether that license is valid.
  • Of the 50 states, not one yet has a web-based license application process.
  • Universities’ money-transmission programs, like [Notre Dame's "Domer Dollars"], are also unlicensed. “Consequently,” writes Greenspan, “the presidents, provosts and trustees of every private university in the nation with such programs (which are exceedingly common) are unknowingly committing federal crimes, and could be incarcerated.”
  • Maryland’s license fee is $4,000.00 in even-numbered years, but $2,000.00 in odd-numbered years.

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Thing Number Three: Andrew Biggs on teacher salaries.  Thesis: you can not compare teachers to private sector employees by holding educational credentials constant.
Education majors enter college with lower SAT scores than students majoring in other fields but leave college with higher GPAs. Unless something truly magical happens in education schools, we can only conclude that Education is simply a less demanding course of study. As Koedel points out, this lack of rigor undermines rewards to students who work harder, makes it more difficult for schools to distinguish good teaching candidates from poor ones, and may contribute to a professional culture that cares little about standards of quality. [...]

Put bluntly, public school teachers enter college with below-average SAT scores, major in the easiest undergraduate course of study, take Master’s degrees in education that have no appreciable impact on teaching quality, and then wonder why they’re not as well paid as someone who got a Master’s in chemical engineering. They shouldn’t.
Much to discuss here, but I want to comment on just the passage I highlighted. This effect is particularly bad news with the tenure system public schools have adopted. I am told (and I agree) that it takes a couple of years for new teachers to find their sea legs. They deserve some experience before being evaluated. But in many districts teachers receive tenure after two years, at which point they can't really be re-evaluated. (Not with the most important consequence, anyway.) As a result the initial hiring decision is the only one that gets made. Our schools are banking on never making a mistake there. And that decision is being made based mostly on educational record, which doesn't seem to carry a lot of information.

This is not something it is popular to say amongst teachers, but it should only be resisted by people who suspect they should not have made that initial cut.

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