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Cops V. Teachers in the 2010s
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Schoolteacher Education Realist writes:

As I’ve observed before, teachers and cops have a lot in common and wow, check out the research on cop turnover. Like teachers, policing is a state government job that requires intelligence, doesn’t have a huge amount of upwards growth, but offers qualified people an interesting challenge or a safe job, depending on their inclinations and abilities. And both occupations turn out to be harder than they appear to the outsider, thus leading to what I assume is a higher than average degree of turnover for a professional occupation. Thus I don’t see any sinister cause for teacher churn.

(Please God, spare us all from the Linda Darling Hammond solution of more, longer training [for teachers in Ed Schools).

All that said—and in this next part, consider my tone descriptive, not prescriptive—I pointed out in the Chris Christie piece above that teachers are clearly targeted in a way that cops aren’t, despite the fact that [cops are] more expensive, work fewer years and take longer pensions (or disability) and just as hard to fire.

A growing conventional wisdom is forming among the elites—the opinion makers, business leaders, political leaders—that teaching should be a short term job, that they aren’t worth the government expense. While they probably feel this way about cops, too, current memes dictate respect to the men (and they are, usually, men) who fight—crime, terrorists, fires, and the like. Teachers, on the other hand, are mostly like elites except not as smart—because otherwise, they wouldn’t go into teaching—and far more female. Hence the emphasis on their supposedly weak qualifications and determined ignorance of all evidence showing the qualifications aren’t weak. To put it in political terms: the center-left is supportive of cops and critical of teachers in a way that’s relatively new. The bulk of the people defending teachers and criticizing cops (these days on stop and frisk) are way, way to the left.

Acceptable targets change over time. Teachers moved up the chain, cops moved down. Makes sense, really—the crime rate was an issue in 80s and early 90s, then crime rates improved. Meanwhile, we’d spent twenty years thinking that affirmative action and equal opportunity would end the achievement gap and that didn’t pan out—time to blame teachers.

So teachers should hunker down, I guess—attentions and fashions will change again.

Certainly, reformers are trying to discourage long-term teaching careers. I see no evidence that cops, judges, firefighters, professors, or lawyers, to pick a random sample, are studied for “effectiveness”, much less found to be more “effective” with years in service. Nor do I see any mention of police use of sick leave, judges’ workload, or state university academics use of sabbaticals. Somehow, the fact that teachers don’t “improve” with time on the job is put forward again and again as evidence that they should be paid differently than any other government worker. And it’s hard to see Andrew Rotherham’s otherwise ludicrous obsession with teaching pensions as anything but an attempt to increase the sweetener for short-termers at the expense of lifers, to encourage teachers to find another line of work after a few years.

But hey, that’s how reformers make their bones.

The problem with teaching is that all “sides” of the debate accept as a given that we are failing to educate our kids, that we could do a much better job. In fact, we aren’t failing, and there’s no evidence we could be doing much better. But so long as everyone agrees that “schools are failing”, teachers will be on the firing line, and “churn” will be seen as either desirable or not based on absurd expectations and beliefs.

Cops were rescued from public condemnation by a dramatic reduction in crime—which they may or may not have contributed to. Teachers won’t be rescued by a decreased achievement gap. We’ll just have to wait for a new scapegoat to another big policy problem. Alternately, for society to accept that we’ll never end the achievement gap.

Which means we better wait for another policy problem. Hey, folks, did you know that firefighters don’t actually fight fires?

 
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  1. ‘… did you know that firefighters don’t actually fight fires…’

    Maybe there’s a way to become the Crassus of teachers.

  2. Some context for NJ police salaries.

  3. There was a TV show called COPS.

    How about a TV show called COPCHERS?
    These would be cops-as-teachers. They would be tough and equipped like cops and take down students who cause trouble in the classroom.

  4. The teacher’s unions are 110% Democrats. Republicans will never love them. Unless they hold their noses, donate 5% money and bull to Republicans, claim it’s 50%- worked for Mexican-Americans.

  5. The perception is that America has gotten safer but dumber over the last thirty years. That’s really all that’s necessary to explain this disparity. It also helps that police unions unlike the NEA are not really national in scope and don’t have a tendency to demand control of the Democrats platform on education. The NEA is the face of out of control white collar unionism and their iron fist behavior at national conventions is starting to generate a backlash. Moreover, when it comes to elections like in DC the Rhees of the world get defeated.

    Of course the writer is also vastly overstating how much criticism teachers are experiencing from the left. That criticism is limited almost entirely to the bobo segment of the left. That tends to mean an occasional critical Slate article, but honestly compared to the skewering LAPD took throughout the nineties teachers really haven’t gotten much criticism at all. Heck now that I think about it the war on drugs draws far more criticism than teachers get right this moment. Where is this supposed war on teachers maybe educational realist needs thicker skin. Try being a social conservative it get a lot worse that one Waiting for Superman movie. Moreover maybe if the teachers unions started making the arguments that educational realist makes to explain educational results then people would become more sympathetic. But instead you get the don’t you care about our children arguments.

  6. “Where is this supposed war on teachers maybe educational realist needs thicker skin.”

    I know five teachers personally, all but one works at a charter school because it’s so hard to get a job at a public school, since the public schools pay better and are generally just better jobs.

    There is a program called Teach for America that is targeting teachers directly. They train top tier students from the IVY league and tell them that the only reason why kids are doing so poorly is because teachers are stupid and that they are the only hope for the students.

    Charter schools get money from the government to hire Teach for America teachers. These teachers only have about two months of training, all from ToA and they work for peanuts. Using these teachers, they can help drive down wages and always have a new crop of ToA workers to fill in the gaps. The fact that the government is giving these schools money to hire the ToA workers is a huge slap in the face to teachers who spend 6 years getting their masters, only to make a little bit more than the ToA teachers.

  7. Of course the writer is also vastly overstating how much criticism teachers are experiencing from the left.

    I don’t think I overstated. I said it was center left, and that the actual left (e.g., the Nation) are the ones defending teachers.

    As for what you say is the “general perception”, I would say that’s the general perception of a certain segment of population, both left and right. But it’s not universal, which is why their very negative perception of teacher’s unions isn’t really carrying over to the general population—which, remember, includes all sorts of people without college degrees.

    Thanks for the link, Steve.

  8. According to this: http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=28

    Teacher turnover is about 9%. Since 76% of teachers are females and most of those are in their child bearing years, a significant portion of those leaving the profession each are doing so for family reasons. The attrition rate of public school teachers appears to be rather low compared to other fields.

    Comparing teachers to cops, salaries are similar and tenure is similar. It’s hard to find good data on cops. I saw one stat claiming the average service time is 33 months, but that’s including all “safety” occupations. That’s where the comparisons break down. State and local police forces vary greatly. Suffolk County New York has waiting lists for cop jobs, while North Carolina struggles to meet recruiting numbers. Pay and benefits are the main reasons.

    Here’s a paper on cop turnover in North Carolina: https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=232591

    Once again, the 33 month figure for average tenure is listed, but it is for patrolman, the lowest rung on the state police force. The overall 14% turnover is not that high, when you factor in disability claims (high) and early retirement(high), which is not common in other professions.

  9. Hepp says:

    In many places, to be hired as a substitute teacher all you need is a bachelor’s degree in any subject. Can you imagine someone who never trained for the profession being a substitute cop, or even a slightly skilled assembly line worker?

    There’s a reason that education majors have the lowest GRE and LSAT scores.

    Teachers are glorified babysitters, with complete job security, and a good 4 months off a year in vacation.

  10. a significant portion of those leaving the profession each are doing so for family reasons. The attrition rate of public school teachers appears to be rather low compared to other fields.

    Don’t know about the first, but a significant portion are not leaving for family reason. Rather, women become teachers because it’s a good job for raising a family.

    The overall 14% turnover is not that high, when you factor in disability claims (high) and early retirement(high), which is not common in other professions.

    Well, 14% is pretty high, given those factors, which is one of my points. Cops are far more expensive than teachers, per year of service. They do get paid more, they can work overtime, and they get pensions or disability for far longer.

    There’s a reason that education majors have the lowest GRE and LSAT scores.

    A huge number of education majors aren’t teachers, and a huge number of teachers aren’t education majors. And few education majors are stupid enough to take the LSAT if they want to be a teacher.

    In fact, teachers have to pass a credential test, and their SAT and GRE scores are much higher than those of education majors: https://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/teacher-quality-pseudofacts-part-ii/

    And while it’s true that there probably aren’t “substitute cops”, that’s because they aren’t needed. Schools have to have warm bodies in the classroom. Subs are basically babysitters.

    If a cop was absent, you wouldn’t put his commanding officer back in the field readily, if he hadn’t been on the street in years. In contrast, principals could step back in pretty easily.

  11. “Can you imagine someone who never trained for the profession being a substitute cop…”

    Yes. Yes, I can. A lot of cops are not very bright.

  12. Neoconned [AKA "Dirk owned lebron and wade"] says:

    I moved around a lot growing up and attended double digit school systems in multiple states. I can safely state that most teachers suck. Most don’t have a good grasp of the material, most don’t understand how to effectively teach, most don’t understand how people learn differently, but just about all of them were really good at giving out busy work and making people recite facts for tests that everyone forgot after the test was over.

    Almost no govt school teachers actually encourage people to think and be able to come up with answers on their own, but instead do tons of busy work and memorize stuff right out of awful textbooks and then repeat it back on the tests.

    The fundamental problem is that govt controls the school systems, so it is inherently political instead of being judged by the market based on performance. So teachers are forced to do things by politically minded principals who only care about keeping their jobs. School boards are full of absolute morons, too.

    I have had jobs in the last where I managed dozens or hundreds of recent high school grads at a time and I can tell you that the lack of knowledge on basic history, basic math skills, and basic English is really shocking. It is far worse than most people realize, but the worst problem of all is that no one can think creatively and figure things out – they have inherited from 12 years (or more) of school that they are supposed to memorize and repeat stuff back, not think about why something happened and what to do about it in the future.

    Maybe that has something to do with the low opinion of teachers? The other irony of a government run system is that I know some teachers who are awesome, and they are punished by the political school system for it and held in low regard by the admin. They are also laughed at by other teachers, the vast majority, for working so much harder and longer.

    Lastly, the nonsense of making it where a kid has to pretty much kill someone to get kicked out of a normal school doesn’t help matters at all. Kids know they can get away with murder in class and not much is done about it.

    Again – the solution for all hard working teachers is to get government out of the school system.

    By the way, there is a 180 in opinion on cops recently, especially by libertarians and conservatives who used to both be very pro cop. All of the videos and stories that go viral about police abuse are leading me to see groups who would have never trashed cops saying things I would have never imagined just a decade or so ago. One irony is that leftists are now defending cops and their nonsense like the Boston bombing reaction by the cops.

  13. “Hey, folks, did you know that firefighters don’t actually fight fires?”

    A lot of firefighters repackaged themselves as EMS/first-responders because you’re correct, fire risks are very low due to modern building codes. They were clever, they repackaged themselves as heroes. No one one politics against a hero class.

    “… so long as everyone agrees that “schools are failing”, teachers will be on the firing line”

    Schools aren’t failing so much as they aren’t efficient. What schools do is fail about 50% of children. Schools often fail children that don’t fit into standardized conformist boxes. Humans aren’t machines, stop treating them like machines. Schools are too caught up in socializing children into repetitive-task and standardized culture rather than reinforcing learning skills, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. Schools also spend too much time classifying children rather than offering parents insight into what their children are better at and what they need to work harder on. Schools are still trying to force “robust” curriculum onto a culture that is specializing. Lastly, at least try to make math fun rather than a chore to learn. All of this equals institutionalized stigmatization of any child outside of the average. I wouldn’t place all the blame on teachers, parents are as much to blame.

  14. I’m sorry education realist, but you are short on the facts. A 14% is not a big number. Nursing has a 20% turnover rate in the first year. Sales has close to a 25% turnover rate. The law has a 20% attrition rate. The 14% figure for cops starts to look small when you actually compare it to other fields.

    Since teachers have an even lower turnover rate, your argument collapses. The question is not “why are so many teachers leaving the profession?” The right question is “why do so few of them leave the profession?”

  15. “Hey, folks, did you know that firefighters don’t actually fight fires?”

    A lot of firefighters repackaged themselves as EMS/first-responders because you’re correct, fire risks are very low due to modern building codes. They were clever, they repackaged themselves as heroes. No one one politics against a hero class.

    Firefighters fight/prevent a lot of car fires after accidents. As for building fires, I wonder what % of them are started by immigrants from warm weather countries who are ignorant about the dangers of space heaters, etc .

  16. ER,

    My view is that all government employees work too little and get payed too much, which is simply inherent in government employment. Without a market, that’s almost inevitable.

    Perhaps a lot of hostility to teachers though comes from their outsized political influence. Also, I see them as eager participants in PC brainwashing, although I understand that your regular teacher isn’t to blame for the white privilege insanity fostered onto them by the elites in their field.

  17. What is your complaint then ER? If the perception isn’t carrying over into the general population (which I would highly contest anecdotally teachers are to my mind in the same place congressmen are mines good the rest suck which is the intermediary step before disrepute) then what exactly are you worried about? Yes teachers are no longer in the pantheon of untouchables but then again only soldiers are still left in that pantheon. The NEA used to rule the roost those days are over that doesn’t suggest any kind hardship coming teachers way. The end of privilege or at least advantage is not hardship.

    I don’t understand your complaint Natahn surely the state can spend its education dollars wherever it likes. Such is the peril of being a government supported endeavor. I guess welfare reform was a slap in the face to welfare recipients. Was canceling the F22s a slap in the face to defense contractors?

  18. “Since teachers have an even lower turnover rate, your argument collapses. ”

    First, a huge amount of time and energy is spent on teacher turnover. Go argue with the people making a big deal about it. Second, you clearly don’t understand my “argument”, because I explicitly said that Merrow (the one talking about teacher churn) hadn’t made his case that churn had increased. I assumed arguendo that teacher turnover is high because of all the time and energy spent fussing over it.

    My “argument” in re Merrow was that he hadn’t really established that churn had increased, and that his culprit, ed schools, was pretty ridiculous, because ed schools benefit from ongoing teacher PD.

    “what exactly are you worried about? ”

    Who said I was worried? I told teachers to hunker down, that this too will pass. Steve linked it, I think, because he, like me, is interested in the teachers/cops parallel.

    “Also, I see them as eager participants in PC brainwashing, ”

    The brainwashing doesn’t take, and a third of teachers are Republicans. Of the rest, many of them are working class, blue collar Dems, not the aggravating elite PC sort.

    Vegan, pretty much everything you said about schools is wrong. Well, they aren’t efficient but it’s Congress and parents that cause a lot of that. I mean, good lord, you’re a vegan. Surely you know how much crap the allergists and you folk have shoved down schools throats with the threat of lawsuits and a demand for “individual treatment” that is actually enforced mandated behavior for non-snowflakes.

    Dirk, you’re all wrong, too.

  19. Actually local politicians are afraid of local cops. They are afraid of teachers too, but with smaller families and sometimes not children at all, teachers cannot do much to extort local politicians.

  20. Neoconned [AKA "Dirk owned lebron and wade"] says:

    So I am wrong about my experiences in eleven school systems in multiple states that were all considered “good schools” among the public? And I am wrong about literally thousands of recent high school grads I have managed over the years?

    Good to know my own experiences did not take place! You certainly can’t blame it all on “one bad apple school” or other nonsense. When I have kids they will be home schooled – enough of this dumbed down indoctrination center.

  21. Isn’t also possible that the elites are downgrading teaching because they have concluded that in the future the drones will need to be as stupid as possible so that they stay happy with sex, drugs, games and a welfare check. And as for their own kids, they are all going to private schools anyway, so who cares…

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