Several readers are recommending links on the subject. One writes:
I trust you saw the recent NYT op-ed by Samuel Culbert? It's directly relevant to your post about teacher evaluation. Definitely food for thought as the drumbeat in favor of abolishing tenure and due-process protections gets louder. (And no, I'm not a teacher.)
I've enjoyed watching your jabs at Malcolm Gladwell regarding Facebook, but your recent post about firing tenured teachers made me think of an article he wrote in December 2008. Basically, it discusses a major problem: what makes a good teacher and how do we evaluate that?
I also recommend checking out a great book by John Taylor Gatto called "Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling." I don't agree with everything in it, but it'll give you a taste of the anger and resentment many teachers feel, and it offers a few inspired ideas about a different way that education could be done.
Don't forget this astonishing chart [pdf] from Reason a few years back, and its accompanied blog post. It conveys the same message of teacher bureaucracy as the other chart you posted but in more detail.
The Daily Show wins again. Stewart and company devoted two-thirds of their show to teachers. In the interview segment, Diane Ravitch makes some interesting points about the "bad teacher" issue. Sure, we have bad teachers. But, being human, we have bad everything (doctors, journalists, risk managers at global banking institutions). But as she points out in this clip, the real problem is socioeconomic. In general, kids from wealthy families perform well in school - better, in fact, than almost anywhere else in the world - but poor students rarely succeed. I hear that refrain time and again from the teachers I know.
I'm not sure if you've seen this recent post by Kevin Drum, but I think it is very pertinent to your discussion. The paper [pdf] that Drum refers to, by Nobel Prize-winning economist David Heckman and released just a few weeks ago, makes a compelling case that most of the achievement gap between poor children and their higher income peers goes back to early childhood and is already firmly entrenched by the time these kids start kindergarten. Heckman concludes that the low-hanging fruit for improving education and alleviating poverty in this country is early childhood education.
I work at a small early childhood education center in DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood (I have seen your husband out walking the beagles once or twice), where we work with a micro population in this rapidly gentrifying neighborhood that is persistently impoverished, and where children are severely impacted by the sorts of factors in the home environment which the Heckman paper refers to. It is well worth considering by anyone who is concerned with the state of education in this country, and I hope it receives a wide reading.