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Teachers and the New Economic Reality in Education

This week Education Week released its annual Quality Counts report. The focus this year is on the "new economic reality" in education. If you haven't had a chance to check it out, you should. And I'm not just saying that because it's an Education Week publication. Reading it this morning, I was struck by how important this topic is to teachers (though admittedly that seems pretty obvious in hindsight). It's not something that should be of in-depth concern only to the report's target audience of administrators and policymakers.

I especially encourage you to read the overview article by Sean Cavanagh. It's long but very well-reported and informative. The upshot is that, for a variety of reasons, the recent recession is likely to have a very long tail for many school districts and to have a profound impact on the way education budgets are created and managed going forward. The implications of this for teachers are still largely speculative—though you can get an idea of the possibilities from things already going on around the country. Some of the ideas touched on by Sean's sources include increasing class sizes, more selective recruitment and retention policies (to identify the teachers who can effectively manage the larger classes), greater integration of technology, and streamlined (which is to say, less flexible) merit-pay systems.

Depending on your perspective, there are probably a number of different ways you could look at these potential changes. (My sense, for example, is that really good teachers are going be more prized and better rewarded than ever—but how well the profession as a whole will be treated is another question.) Regardless, it's not a bad idea to be prepared for them.

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