IN DEFENSE OF THE TENURE COMMITTEE. Nailed to Newmark's Door is a thesis by Virginia Postrel envisioning improved teaching in the common schools.

If you want teachers to be judged on subjective qualities like their ability to inspire students, you have to let schools hire, fire, promote, and demote their teachers accordingly. That means paying not by objective criteria like degrees and seniority but by a boss's professional evaluation. It means allowing into the classroom great teachers who have subject knowledge but not a lot of idiotic education courses on their transcripts.

Of course, teachers as a group don't want to give their bosses the power to evaluate them. Certainly, the teachers' unions don't want that. So to create any connection between classroom performance and professional evaluations, we're stuck with objective criteria, notably test scores. The alternative, beloved by teachers' advocates, is to have objective measures of teacher "quality," including seniority and acadmic credentials, and no measures of teaching quality. Standardized tests and prescribed curricula are far from perfect, but they're better than no accountability at all.

I'll leave aside for the moment the "Of course" stuff heading up the second paragraph. Focus on that "professional evaluation," which is precisely what tenure committees exist to provide in the university.

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