I’m not opposed to many kinds of school choice but it’s not a panacea – as they say. Yet lost under that cliche is the more important point that even having choice among schools isn’t enough – parents have to drill down more because teachers matter more. It’s especially true if you don’t enjoy school choice. That issue is the topic of this week’s TIME School of Thought.
The most important decision you will make about your children’s education is picking their school, right? That’s the conventional wisdom, but it’s actually wrong — or at best it’s only half-correct. Teacher effectiveness varies a lot within schools, even within good schools, which means that just choosing the right school for your kid is not a proxy for choosing great teachers. So while “school choice” is hotly debated (next week is National School Choice Week, complete with Bill Cosby’s blessing and events galore,) there are few rallies being held for giving parents the right to choose a particular teacher. That’s because the whole system is stacked against empowering families in this way. In fact, because of how seniority rules generally work, it’s a lot more common for teachers to choose their students than for students to choose their teachers.