A simple observation about education reform

The Prince George’s County school board has fewer college graduates serving current terms than any other school system in the Washington region, with only two of its eight members holding a bachelor’s degree.

Here is more, and for the pointer I thank M.


Seems that Ahmed probably should get elected even without a College degree since she seems way more "conscientious" than her opponent to use Bryan Caplan's term. More proof of signaling in Education?

Second, how much do council members get paid? Might that explain the low number of college grads in those positions? Sure seems like a big waste of my time if I don't get a nice fat check for it.

As anyone who interviews job candidates can tell you, a college degree does not equal a solid education. Nor does a college degree mean that its holder can write well or think critically.

From the second linked article:

“The presence or absence of a degree should not be the controlling variable, but on the other hand, people who are in charge of education policy should have the experience of having a solid education,” said Smith, the former schools superintendent for Arlington Public Schools. “It makes considerable sense.”

From the first linked article:

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who has no direct control over the school system, has repeatedly said the futures of the schools and the county are inseparable. He has argued that the board needs continuity and has orchestrated an effort — which includes the teachers union and state senators — to get the majority of the incumbent members reelected next week.

The problem sounds like a bit too much "continuity".

This blog post did not enlighten me in any way.

I agree, Chipotle. Seems like Tiebout sorting in action, not much more.

I see the observation but it ain't about education reform.

I agree. I skimmed furiously and could not find a connection to school performance at all. It was an assertion about the "quality" of school boards with reference to themselves. Perhaps Tyler was being droll here.

Chalk it up to mood affiliation, whatever that is.

Yeah, we need college graduates serving on our school boards. Preferably businessmen with the right conservative philosophy.

Of course, that would mean Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Jeff Zuckerberg need not apply.

Not qualified. And, one dead.

Why use an exception to make your point?

Is the average American non-graduate likely to be of Steve Jobs caliber? Is the typical Fortune-500 CEO a non-graduate? Is the typical graduate a conservative?

What's your point?

My point is: don't make categorical judgments about people based on one variable.

Did the post, for example, disclose any other background facts about the board members?

If a good board member is a function of 12 variables, what does telling me one variable mean?

Rahul, And, by the way, don't assume that having more college educated board members means anything....ask yourself this question: if you have a strong superintendant, which board will be more compliant with the superintendant's wishes. Or, let's flip it the other way, let's assume that the less educated board member is very well connected to the community, and not only communicates to the superintendant, but also communicates the decisons of the board very effectively to the community. That's an asset. .

Have you ever attended a school board meeting. It's hard not to fall asleep. The ability to stay awake should be a requirement.

I agree about not making categorical judgments, but I don't see one being made here--by Tyler or the article. If there is any deeper meaning to the post beyond "here is an interesting fact", then you must be a better reader than me to detect it.

Personally, I think a college degree is a clear plus, all other things being equal. But all other things rarely are.

Let me ask: what was the purpose of the article and the post, then?

Dude, it's a school board. Two of eight people have a college degree. And you're clamoring for more information.

Wasn't Prince George's County supposed to be this great experiment in black upper middle class success? Use Affirmative Action (racial discrimination) to give massive #s of blacks high paying federal government jobs, sit back, and watch Prince George's County become a model of high income black success.

In related news anybody care to compare the crime and welfare rate of Prince George's County to the other DC suburban counties?

It's almost as if black underperformance is systemic and deep-rooted. Couldn't be anything to do with the centuries of slavery when white people stole their labour, could it?

No, because it happens even in countries where blacks weren't slaves.

Funny how that travels all the way to Africa and infects people who were never enslaved. Weird!

College degrees are irrelevant. The only question is "Are you owned by the unions?"

One quote I remember from one school board member: "We can only raise property taxes by 7% a year!"

And one from a town council member, about math education for girls: "We've come 180 degrees from where we started, but we have 180 degrees to go."

At a middle school open house, the principal told parents that everything the school does is done to prepare the students for college. It was sadly disheartening to hear that she felt that way about her work and her school. I went home thinking about all the things I studied in pre-college formal education that were valuable and that I never studied in college.

Maybe having a school board with mostly just high school educations can give some direction that a high school education all by itself needs to amount to something worthwhile.

Well, MR University will soon solve that problem, won't it?

I thought Germany was going to solve it?

My impression is that most of America -- and New England may be an exception -- doesn't have any golden age to look back to when school officials and teachers were particularly well-educated. At the time of the American Revolution, there are references to some teachers being indentured servants or convicts and it's been an uphill battle to gradually increase the quality of people in the education sector since then. Americans want high-quality public education but have never wanted to cobble together the money needed to attract highly educated people into the field. Instead, education in the public sector in America has historically been the career choice for people who didn't have any better options available.

That last sentence... perhaps you don't mean to dredge up a ridiculous and dated stereotype of teachers, but you are doing so nonetheless. In some middle to upper class suburban districts, the competition for job openings is so fierce that sometimes the first pass of the resumes is throwing out anyone who didn't graduate summa cum laude. I know this for a fact. The real problem today is how to address the disparities between the desirable teaching jobs and the undesirable ones.

I don't think the lack of college degrees among its members should effect the "quality" or effectivness of school boards. I'm sure we could find forums overrepresented by highly educated members which are ineffective and of poor quality. Richmond, Calif. and Berkeley CA might be two such examples.

In the case of Prince George's County school board, clearly no college degrees are needed for a school board to be screwed up.

The post is a joke about Prince George's County.

Why would anyone think that a college degree was even remotely a good measure of what you want in school administration?

There are definitely benefits of hospitals, say, being run by doctors, but on the other hand hospitals also suffer from systematic distortions for the benefit of the medical profession. So if you have a headache and go and see your GP, you will get a fully qualified and rested professinal with decades of experience. But if you have a car accident in the middle of the night, you will get some harried medical student, possibly on some sort of amphetimine, who may not have slept for sixty three hours and who has never seen this type of injury outside a textbook. Not even there.

The educational profession, on the other hand, has largely abdicated responsibility for the massive disaster they have caused. It was not parents that moved away from traditional methods of teaching everything from reading to mathematics. It was know-it-all education professionals. And in my experience now they have produced a disaster, they blame the parents for not raising their children properly.

A parent with a lot of common sense and a desire to see children actually educated will do better, even without a college degree, than most. The only benefit a college degree gives is that it is a signal. But not, I would think, a reliable one.

I'm SHOCKED, SHOCKED, that such a thing could be happening in Prince George's County!

Noted right-wing crazy Steven Pearlstein, business columnist at the Washington Post:

"Prince George’s County offers the greatest gap between the potential for development and redevelopment in the inner ring and market realities. High crime rates, inferior schools, rampant corruption and sheer ineptitude on the part of local officials have scared away many developers."

"Steven Pearlstein: For development, all signs point inward," January 14, 2012

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