I felt bad listening to the story of the LAUSD teacher who committed suicide this week.  One of his alleged reasons was a negative score on the “Value Added” list published in the Los Angeles Times.  One point that has been made multiple times is that there are multiple factors in judging a teacher “good” and test scores is only one of them. One  question I have is what outcome other than public humiliation is to be expected from such a narrow rating system. Another is how does the average parent react to the score of their child’s teacher?  But I’d like to step back even further and try to consider the “ratings game” situation from a Liberty perspective:

1. Maybe we should regard public education the same way we regard public retirement (Social Security) in other words as a last-resort safety net rather than the primary method of education.  In other words don’t expect boutique creativity and stellar quality from a large-scale mass-produced education system.

2. How about returning to smaller districts with more local control and feedback?  This more intimate setting allows both the administrators and the community to be more aware of which teachers have the right stuff.

3. Choice, choice, choice, and more free choice.  By free, I mean free as in freedom to choose, not necessarily as in free lunch.  Choice is the ultimate expression of a free society, and it spreads the “job” of evaluating the many factors (effectiveness/coolness/niceness) among the entire population and helps distinguish the good services from the acceptable, and eventually culls the least desirable.

If parents and students were allowed to choose, then the ones who cared the most would flock to the best school, even if they had to pay a distance fee.  How would they figure out what are the best schools?  I don’t know, and I’m proud to admit that I don’t know, unlike meddling bureaucrats who make it their life’s work to dream up arbitrary metrics then use them to perpetuate their jobs.  My point is that people will find a way to evaluate the schools in a variety of ways that no one committee can foresee, anticipate, model or predict.  So lets get out of the way of the market, and let the people be free to chose.

references:

http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2010/09/29/teachers-suicide-leads-to-call-for-times-to-remove

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0829-lopezcolumn-20100829,0,1921216.column