Tuesday, July 22, 2014

SPLC: Republican opposition to Common Core is “hate and extremism”

The editors of National Review (where I'm a contributor) warned last week that free speech rights are threatened by the pernicious notion that businesses should not enjoy First Amendment protections. The threat is real, but altering the Constitution like that is still a lot of work. Activists have an easier way to suppress views they don’t like: Just call those views “hate.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) runs a blog titled “Hatewatch: Keeping an Eye on the Radical Right.” It has a daily feature called Hatewatch Headlines, which is dedicated to "highlighting the best stories around the web on hate and extremism.”

On the same day as the NR editorial, Hatewatch Headlines offered a revealing selection. Amidst links to articles about secret KKK members, apologies for slavery, and anti-government terrorism, the SPLC listed a piece from the Washington Post titled: “Forget Obamacare. Common Core is the Republicans’ new big enemy.”

Common Core is the name for a set of K-12 education standards that supporters hope will become de facto national standards. (See here for my perspective.) Needless to say, what opposition to these standards has to do with Klansmen and terrorists is not clear. But the SPLC is happy to link any conservative cause to "hate." That shuts down debate without any need for direct censorship.

The Post article itself is a lazy attack on Common Core opponents, with the usual charge that opponents are against the standards simply because the president is for them. It’s a strange accusation, given that a number of liberal groups have stated their opposition as well. Nevertheless, Republican opponents are portrayed as extreme in the Post article, and the SPLC ups the ante by surrounding the link with variants of the word “hate.”

If even the most innocuous political position—say, preferring that school standards not be uniform nationwide—can be characterized in the media as hate and extremism, then weakening the First Amendment will not be necessary to control the discourse.

Monday, July 14, 2014

About half of teachers have education degrees

I received a request from Education Realist to detail how many and which types of teachers hold undergraduate education degrees, using the ACS data mentioned in the previous post.

The ACS provides five different occupational categories that pertain to public-school teachers. Here is their distribution in the combined 2010 through 2012 samples:

Right away we can see some limitations in the ACS data. It would be nice to separate elementary from middle school, and preschool from kindergarten, but we have to work with what's available. We also have to rely on the Census Bureau to accurately categorize respondents' descriptions of the work they do, and it's not clear that it has. The percentage of secondary teachers appears too low--I expected to see around 25 percent--which suggests some misclassification.

I created three categories for college majors: pure education, subject-specific education, and non-education. Included in the first category is any field that is primarily about pedagogy rather than an academic subject. They are the types of majors that people usually mean when they say "education":
General Education
Educational Administration and Supervision
School Student Counseling
Elementary Education
Early Childhood Education
Secondary Teacher Education
Special Needs Education
Teacher Education: Multiple Levels
Miscellaneous Education
Educational Psychology
By contrast, some teachers major in how to instruct a particular subject. Their courses of study are generally similar (and sometimes identical) to majoring in the subject itself, but with an added teaching component. These are the subject-specific education majors I found in the ACS:
Mathematics Teacher Education
Physical and Health Education Teaching
Science and Computer Teacher Education
Social Science or History Teacher Education
Language and Drama Education
Art and Music Education
The table below shows how pure education, subject-specific, and non-education degrees are distributed among teachers of different grade levels. (Click the table to see a larger version.) Overall, 49 percent of public-school teachers in the ACS have a pure education degree, another 11 percent have a degree in how to teach a particular subject, and the remaining 40 percent have a non-education degree.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The most common non-education job held by education majors is...

The American Community Survey, a mini-Census conducted each year, began asking college graduates for their degree field in 2009. The new information helps answer a number of important questions about both the labor market value of different degrees and the skills possessed by different workers.

One question that's interested me for the past several years is how the skills of public-school teachers compare to the skills of other college graduates. A common view is that teachers should be paid like the average college graduate, but not all four-year degrees are created equal.  Elementary school teachers typically major in education, which is often considered one of the least rigorous courses of study. (Secondary school teachers, being more specialized, usually major in an academic field or in how to teach a particular field.)

One way to better assess teacher skills is to examine what happens to the wage of the typical worker who switches between teaching and non-teaching jobs. It turns out that people generally receive a pay raise when they move into teaching and a small pay cut when they move out, which implies that teacher salaries are at least adequate on average.

Another way to gauge teacher skills is to look at the types of non-education jobs held by education majors. If trained teachers tend to work prestigious jobs outside of teaching, that would suggest their skills are broadly valued and transferable. The first table below shows that 60.6 percent of people with a degree in education (and who have worked within the last five years) have an education-related occupation. The next table lists the top 10 occupations of the 39.4 percent of education majors who have a non-education job. The most common non-education job is administrative assistant, followed by retail salesperson, miscellaneous manager, childcare worker, and first-line supervisor of retail salespersons.

Friday, May 23, 2014

New fair-value cost estimates from the CBO

Though it won't say so explicitly, the CBO has been on a long quest to convince Congress to change its accounting procedures. It's out with another study showing the budgetary cost of credit programs under current-law accounting (FCRA) versus a more comprehensive method known as fair-value accounting (FVA). As usual, credit programs that show a profit under FCRA actually show a cost under FVA.

The analysis of the Export-Import Bank is particularly interesting, since the agency has come under increasing fire for being, in President Obama's words, "little more than a fund for corporate welfare." Ex-Im supporters had cited the "profit" the bank earns for the government as a justification for its existence. No longer.

To read all about FVA, please see my previous post.