The Smoke Clears…

AFTie John has just realized that the Democratic governor in Iowa signed an education tax credit bill; the one in AZ did the same thing a few weeks ago. Yeah, we’re getting our asses kicked. Stop reading Boardbuzz and start reading the newspaper! These bills are not great policy but this is what happens when, as President Clinton puts it, you try to beat something with nothing. Democrats need something to say on this issue of choice that isn’t just “no” and is not education tax credits (which are really lousy policy) and vouchers (which have their own set of problems). For some reason that’s politically hard right now…maybe AFTie John has some thoughts on why? Update: Andy Smarick says it more eloquently than I did.

Also, AFTie One-L protests that per the post below in fact she doesn’t hate the Ed Trust report, just some of the recommendations*. To the more central point she’s touting, the AFTie data in question isn’t as definitive as One-L likes to think because (a) it’s too aggregated, meaning district size is a big variable here (b) the distinction between states with collective bargaining and states without it is not a clean one at all in terms of practice at the local level (c) more cumulative data would be more useful and (d) we have no idea about what rate of turnover is, for lack of a better word, “ideal.” We know that a zero percent turnover rate isn’t good and that 25 percent seems on its face to be too much. But, because issues of human resources and talent in education has received so little attention it’s hard to really get at this issue the way you can in other fields. For instance a big accounting, consulting, or law firm can tell you with some certainty where they want to land on this question to maintain the talent pool they seek. Those questions are not, pace One-L, an aversion to data rather it’s the common sense step of making sure it’s applicable to answering the question at hand.

*Update: AFTie One-L is trying to shift from cheerleader to referee and now says “I did not say that [AFT researcher Howard] Nelson’s work is the definitive study on teacher transfers–I said that he took a look at the data and what he came up with ran counter to the New Teacher Project’s (NTP’s) study.” But what she actually said was “I guess no one from Ed Trust attended the Ed Sector event where AFT researcher Howard Nelson convincingly deflated the argument that teacher transfer provisions are the reason urban schools have fewer qualified teachers. “Convincingly deflated” sounds pretty definitive to me, no? Anyway, you can decide about the debate yourself, the transcript and audio are now online. Also, here is the NTP study in question, read it yourself. Not definitive but more granular. Would be nice to see more data like this from more places.

Update II: It’s Hard Out Here For An AFTie! Now One-L is again showing worrisome signs of relativism in how she argues: “Did I find Nelson’s data analysis as convincing as Eduwonk found the New Teacher Project report? Yes.” If I said that I didn’t think the NTP report was convincing would she attack poor Nelson? C’mon.

Anyway, problem for her is, I never said I was a referee here, that was her posture and that’s why we had a journalist moderate the debate in question rather than me (and yes, yes, the AFTies give a platform to different views all the time…). Thing is, none of this is definitive (though I think the evidence points to an issue), and that’s why Jane Hannaway and I called for a lot more research and analysis in Collective Bargaining in Education, but it’s easier for me to say that because I don’t have a party line to toe. I’d really like to see a lot more research around these questions. A joint NTP – AFT project to look at a bunch of districts would be a great place to start. Right now the NTP method is superior to the AFT one so if the AFTie gripe is that NTP only looked at five districts, then let’s expand the analysis.

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