Saturday, March 6, 2010


Apparently President Obama has endorsed the recent mass firing of the teachers in a Rhode Island school where students are performing poorly. This is not too surprising since in his book "The Audacity of Hope" Obama claimed to believe that teachers are the most important factor in student performance. Which would make it logical to blame their teachers when students perform poorly. However in the real world teacher quality (within the range commonly found in the United States) hardly matters. Student performance is primarily determined by characteristics of the students themselves and secondarily by the characteristics of their classmates.

So while I believe it can be absurdly difficult to fire individual teachers for gross misconduct I am sympathetic to making it difficult to fire teachers in cases like this where teachers are being blamed for things they have little influence on. Of course this is a difficult case for the teacher's unions to make as if teachers don't matter much there is not much reason for them to receive premium pay.

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