The Paradoxes of Education Reform Critics: “asymmetric incompetency”

Adam Ozimek:

There’s a lot of important, nuanced debate to be had between the most optimistic education reformers and those who are more skeptical. But I think there are many, though of course not all, on the education reform critic side who tie themselves in knots telling inconsistent stories about education in this country. So here are the most common paradoxes of that movement. This isn’t to say those who criticize some or even many aspects of education reform embody all these paradoxes, but I would argue they are relatively common. I think education reform critics spend a lot of times opposing individual policies or ideas or changes, and so it is hard to tie all of those disparate criticisms together into a coherent vision that also explains what education policy should be. These paradoxes, I would argue, identify a problem.

1. Administrators can’t be trusted with firing, but are perfect at hiring.

One of the arguments for lots of job protections in schools is that you can’t trust administrators to decide who to fire. If you give them discretion, they will fire good teachers who they don’t like, or who do anything other than toe the administration line, or for other cronyism reasons. On the other hand, we are told that firing more teachers won’t solve anything because we most teachers are good at their job or at the most just need more coaching. So while we can’t trust administrators to fire competently, we also have arrived at a place where their hiring decisions involve impeccable foresight to never make a bad hiring decision. It’s a strange paradox of asymmetric incompetency.