In a related article today, Matthew Di Carlo in The Shanker Blog notes that the “cognitive ability” among female students who choose teaching as a career has declined over time:Go that? Matt DiCarlo is intellectually dishonest, because he admits the teacher corps has become less bright, but won't make the case that unionization is at fault.
An important 2004 longitudinal analysis of the trend in teachers’ cognitive ability (as measured by math/reading tests) suggests that the proportion of female students who both chose teaching and scored in the top ten percent on these tests was around 15-17 percent in the late 1950s, compared with roughly 7-8 percent in the early 1990s (also see here). There were similar, though less pronounced, patterns among female students scoring in the top 70-90 percent. This suggests, in other words, that the highest-achieving (at least as measured by these aptitude tests) young women are more likely to choose other professions than they used to be.Di Carlo also notes that part of the decline of teacher cognitive ability, at least among females, is due to the expanding opportunities for women in the work force. (The choices aren’t just social workers, teachers, or nurses anymore.) Ohanian, however, attributes much of the decline to the lack of competition for higher salaries, since compensation for teachers is frozen into salary guides that disregard effectiveness in the classroom. He points out the much-publicized case of Megan Sampson, “a public school teacher in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, [who] was laid off because of lack of seniority, even though she received Wisconsin’s outstanding first-year teacher award.”
Di Carlo is no anti-unionist. His blog is funded by AFT and he describes his mission (on the blog's homepage) as advocating for “teacher unions as advocates for quality;" understandably, he posits no link between the decline in teacher quality and the lack of differentiation between great teachers and lousy ones. But he and Ohanian (who hails not only from UCLA but also from the Conservative American Enterprise Institute) dovetail in their agreement on national problems in attracting smart and ambitious candidates to the teaching profession.
Except DiCarlo says this in the very same post - IMMEDIATELY after the above quote:
(The results also suggest that the likelihood of choosing teaching may have actually increased slightly among top-scoring men, though samples were too small to get very precise estimates.)
So Waters says DiCarlo says teachers iz getting moor stoopider. Problem is, he never said that. But he did say this:It is, however, very important to note that, while there was this change in the likelihood of teaching at the top of the “cognitive ability” distribution, there was only a negligible decline in the scores of the average new female teacher over this same time period. This suggests that the decrease in the likelihood of teaching among the highest-scoring female students may have been offset by a decrease in the likelihood of choosing teaching among the lowest-scoring students. Other analyses have reached similar conclusions.* [emphasis mine]
Nevertheless, overall, the evidence supporting the conventional wisdom that there has been a substantial decline in the “quality” of the average teacher over time is much less clear than is sometimes assumed. This of course does not change anything as far as the desirability of improving current and future teachers, but it does suggest we might be more careful about making blanket statements regarding the trend in “quality” among a huge workforce like teachers, and about offering simplistic explanations for incredibly complicated trends in educational outcomes.Yeah, we might be careful - but Laura Waters won't.
If I have the time and the stomach, I may deal with the rest of the post later. But understand that this is really nothing more than the latest round of teacher bashing, wrapped up in psuedo-academic language.