Posted by: crudbasher | December 7, 2012

The Teacher Brain Drain

In most of the studies I have read, the biggest difference in how much a student will learn in public education is the quality of the teacher. What kills me is that parents have no say over which teacher their child gets so it’s just blind luck if you get a really good one.

There really has to be a better way to do this.

I was reading a bit about Udemy (previous posts about them here). Apparently they are doing pretty well and making money with their concept of offering a platform for teachers to offer independent classes. Most of the classes are free but some are for cost. Classes run from $20-$200. What is amazing is how much some teachers are making. (H/T gigaom.com)

[...]dozens of instructors in all kinds of disciplines are making upwards of $10,000 but the highest earners tend to teach more technical topics (Microsoft Excel and Python, for example) or business and entrepreneurship. The most popular instructors, he continued, are especially passionate and knowledgeable about their material. And they put in about 30 to 40 hours or more to prepare the curriculum, produce high-quality video and interact with students via message boards. Instructor Victor Bastos, for example, has earned $325,000 over the past 12 months from his class on web development. But even a class on the “art of black and white photography,” taught by photographer David Nightingale, has made $31,000 in just four months.

Ok I understand that most of the teachers don’t make that kind of money but apparently 1/4 of their instructors have made more than $10,000 this year. That’s not bad.

There are several thoughts I have about this. First, since this can be done in one’s spare time, this will encourage people with a skill to be teachers. Second, the very best teachers in public education might very well look at this kind of money and see how it compares to their life in the public school system. I remember when I heard Rafe Esquith speak he talked a lot about how frustrating it was. Perhaps the best teachers would miss the classroom too much? I’m sure that will be the case a lot but for the rest perhaps they will leave?

There is always a danger in a business that if a competitor comes along with a better offer they will take your best people. I wonder if independent education systems will be that competitor? The end result might be that outcomes will get even worse in public education, thus hastening it’s reform/demise. We will see.

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