Bottom line for this long post: few people take labor markets seriously in education. I mean seriously, not ideologically.1 We need some work in market design for the hiring of new teachers and the issue of teacher skill distributions.
On May 13, Allyson Klein wrote a brief but illuminating Ed Week blog entry about the federal government’s silence on a promise to promote “teacher equity” policies, following up on a February article. Essentially, it looks like the Department of Education first promised its non-profit/advocacy allies that it would Do Something about unequal access to good teachers, and now is having problems figuring out how it can mandate that. (Important note: the statutory language on this is from No Child Left Behind. This is not particularly an Obama administration problem, except it’s just the latest administration wrestling with the issue.) As the Arne Duncan era at USDOE lurches towards its final act, we are likely to witness sotto voce pullbacks on a range of policies where there is not enough time to manage the bureaucratic or political waters. Klein called it “logistical bandwidth,” but it’s as much a matter of political “bandwidth” as logistical. This is life for an agency where political appointees commonly make a broad list of promises. At some point, there either has to be pullback on some items or the unaccomplished list becomes an al-dente test of political and administrative viability.2
I hope that in the case of teacher quality and distribution, this provides an opportunity for some new ideas to emerge before the Next Big Thing in either the Jeb! or Hillary! administration.