Bruno: The Soft Bigotry Of High Expectations (For Reform)
Chetty et al, you'll recall, found that using value-added measures to identify weaker teachers and replace them with better teachers could increase students' long-term earnings by about 1%.
There are lots of reasons to doubt that we really could reap that 1% gain by broadly implementing VAM-based hiring and firing. What's puzzling to me, though, is Drum's disappointment with the "shockingly low" 1% figure, which he seems to think is hardly worth bothering about.
But why is 1% too small of a gain to care about? That 1% figure is for one teacher in one year of school, but if we're considering an education reform like this we're presumably imagining implementing it in multiple grades so that each student would benefit from it over multiple years.
I doubt I'm the only person who would be excited if my 13 years in the K-12 system had been able - cumulatively and hypothetically - to increase my future earnings by an additional 10% or more. And I'd need some pretty good reasons to deny those gains to other people.
While education policy skepticism can be healthy we shouldn't get carried away with unreasonably high expectations for proposed reforms. Education pundits are typically privileged adults, so benefits that we might dismiss as insignificant may seem quite valuable to many students (or their future selves) -- especially on a cumulative basis.
So if we demand that a proposed reform meet pundits' arbitrarily high expectations to be deemed worth implementing, we may unjustifiably write off potentially worthwhile projects and policies. The fact that an education reform is "not good enough" to excite and entertain adults who are done with the K-college system doesn't necessarily mean it's not good enough to benefit lots of kids who have yet to finish their educations. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)