Friday, August 02, 2002

Barriers to Entry

Joanne Jacobs comments on the National Research Council's plan to certify math and science PhDs through two-year fellowships to teach high school math and science courses. She finds the two-year training excessive. I agree that this seems like an unnecessary requirement and a barrier to attracting candidates for the program.

It also follows the popular education trend of placing unnecessary burdens on what would otherwise be innovative education programs. Using math PhDs to teach high school math is an obvious innovation--sticking potential teachers with yearlong training requirements is not.

Similarly, the implementation of the private tutoring choice component of the No Child Left Behind Act, which is supposed to let parents stuck in a failing school use a tutoring “voucher” to get extra help for their kids, is burdened with large barriers to entry which prevent most private tutors from participating. Many districts are requiring 30-page applications and RFPs with impossible criteria that restrict all but the most-established companies. For example, some RFPs require “evidence” on the order of Rand-type studies with randomized experiments to prove that the tutoring process works. So, the local tutor that serves the Korean population in downtown Fullerton, CA will never qualify as a choice for those families. Instead look for short lists that include the school district, Sylvan Learning, and perhaps a Kaplan or Kumon Learning Center. The implementation goes against the spirit of the law, which was supposed to let the parent choose the tutor. As usual, many school districts have chosen to substitute bureaucratic validation for parental judgment.

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