Edison’s Chris Whittle turns in an op-ed based on his new book in today’s Washington Post and there is already some early swooning. Whittle is extremely bright and fascinating to watch. Nonetheless, this piece, while interesting, disappoints because, apologies to the choice crowd, it implicitly shows a fundamental conundrum of the education marketplace – politics. Whittle argues that a redesign of American schools could free up resources to pay fewer teachers a lot more. Theoretically, sure. But, he refuses to take on an obvious culprit that would allow school districts to move in that direction now, even in the absence of a radical whiteboard redesign: The single-salary scale that basically precludes districts from rewarding teachers for taking on especially challenging assignments, having special skills or knowledge, or exceptional performance. Isn’t Edison a private company now…why pull punches?
Sure, a triple-7 style project would be interesting (though that is in fact what Edison set out to do more than a decade ago) but in the meantime more flexibility now would allow for incremental progress because as Whittle points out there is the potential for some natural dynamism in the labor market now simply because of attrition from various causes.
Of course, raising questions about the steps-and-lanes system is a ferocious attack on teachers so we can’t do that! (Incidentally, one reader writes to ask why you can criticize American policy in Iraq and still support the troops but not raise questions about these contracts without being a teacher basher? Good question…)
Update: Jenny D. on the book seems a little harsh…