Also, the last time I checked, you can't just "memorize" your way into passing standardized tests outside of perhaps spelling and vocabulary tests.
Have you taken a standardized test lately? I'm 23, and I've taken at least a dozen of them. Every single one I have taken has tested my ability to learn the test at least as much (if not more, cough SATs cough).
Color me cynical, but i believe it's a scam, perpetuated by the powers entrusted with administering these tests, who in turn are influenced by lobbies for the 'test prep' industry.
are still rather rare.
Having come from a poor family, my single mother the child of a dirt-poor, subsistence-farming family, and having done fairly well for myself all things considered, I am almost always skeptical of anyone that says the poor don't have a chance. Not that public schooling was much help, but when people spout this garbage, I want to ask them where the hell I came from if the US doesn't give you a fair shake. I've not seen failure from anyone that was truly determined, but I have seen a pampered, upper-middle class tell me I couldn't make it, over and over again. Hell, I've seen my own family tell me I couldn't make it. I could imagine beliving them if I were anywhere else on earth.
The most inspiring thing I've ever seen is Baxter Humby, right after defending his title as super-middleweight Muay Thai champion (with only one arm and at the age of 34, no less) grab the microphone like a giddy schoolboy and tell the stunned audience after his mostly one-sided fight (I have never seen a one-armed man dominate the ring like that) that the only limits we have are those we place on ourselves. I'm thoroughly sick of dour people like the author of this article help people limit themselves.
Humby aside, it's true: you don't need to listen to anyone tell you that you are oppressed here. Prove it to yourself: make enough money to travel abroad, and see if those people are oppressed, to give yourself a point of reference. You'll learn a few things on the way up.
Lots of poor people stay poor and are likely to continue; my point is that, of all places on earth, the poor have a pretty good shot here, and that the attitude that we're somehow unfair to them in this country is totally unfounded and, in fact, damaging to people who don't need the added disadvantage of being discouraged.
Life's playing field has never been level, but it doesn't do anyone any good to make these assertions that one disadvantage or another is too much.
As far as your question about personal drive, it came from an intense desire to not eat another bowl of instant ramen, ever.
And on the topic of luck, it's a common saying that the harder you work, the luckier you get.
I can provide what I believe the be an example of a good teaacher: When I was in highschool I had a number of teachers but the one who stuck out the most a man who taught us religious education (I went to Catholic school.) On the first day of class, this man, to show just how important he thought that this one point was, dropped to his knees and shouted. His enthusiasm grabbed my attention and made the lecture much more interesting.
This man tought us more classes and each one he tought with a sense of dynamism and enthusiasm which was infectious. He knew his subject matter, was passionate about it, was intellectually curious, wanted us to be so as well. Not only did he hold himself to high standards, he held the class to high standards as well, and all of his together made us, particularly me, want to learn.
I once had the privilaege to sit in on the disertation of a man who was discussion what he believed the best approach to education was. His conclusion was that a teacher's role was was to act as a sort of guide to the student. To inspire the student and motivate him to learn. His belief was that teaching was first and formost, a relationship between the student and the teacher.
I agree. Growing up I loved school, but I went to a very small school with a very strong sense of community. I knew all the teachers and they all knew me and it helped to make learning a very rewarding experience. I think the crux of it is this: most of my immediate role models growing up loved to learn and loved their subjects and I learned from them to learn and an appreciation of the same subjects.
In today's public schools, there is a certain lack of interpersonalization eityher due to management style, regulations, or budget issues, which makes it harder for the teachers to connect with the students and teach. I don't know what the root cause of this is, but I think it is a major factor in the ineffectiveness of the system.
Good teachers engage their students and make them think about problems around them and how to solve them. They present history as then ask if it's happening again around them. They teach English and then explain why learning the proper way to talk and write helps make their own expressions more poignant and well received.
In today's school system's the teachers are judged solely on the test scores of students and it's unheard of that a student might simply be a 'c' student instead of being the teachers fault. Teachers have to teach the tests and no longer have the proper time to teach theory and critical thinking. School lengths change at the whim of the school board depending on why survey has been read saying that 50 min classes are better than 90 min and so on. The school system has become a political playground and we are seeing the result of focusing on 'grades' over education.
Time and time again I hear the argument that teachers now have to "teach the test". If it's possible for a teacher to "teach the test", and students can pass it just by route memorization, well then surely these are some pretty horrible tests!
It's rare to hear people want to reform the actual format and content of the tests to ensure that "teaching the test" is less possible. You could argue, for example, allowing more free-form answers, or creative test formats that allow students to display critical thinking skills to the grader would do just as much to reduce the "teaching to the test problem" as throwing out tests as the primary means of evaluating performance, but you don't really hear this argument all that often.
Admittedly I know little about it, but I find it pretty hard to believe that the best teachers, who do engage their students and provide them a solid education, end up with classrooms of worldly students that end up failing standardized tests.
But hell, what do I know? I also think rote memorization gets a bad rap.
Poor test design: no rule against standing on your toes.
Standardized test: all results must be reported in meters, as opposed to subjective units ("a wee bit taller than the person giving the test").
But for a test to be a learning technique, it must challenging enough to make the students study new material. Otherwise, it's just an excercise in "monkey see, monkey do."
Personally, I think the future of standardized tests will be like ACT's Compass college placement test, which progressively adapts to the level of the student as he/she is taking it, yet still results in a comparative standardized score.
Further, specific and concrete examples of "good teachers" presented by either the film maker or reviewer would have been absurd (but the review's point was the the film didn't even attempt to address the issue of a good teacher). The notion of a "good teacher" is absurd, I think, because it doesn't exist. Consider your kindergarten teacher and advanced math prof. One was probably nurturing and kind, the other an expert in a complex subject. What do these two people have in common that can be communicated in the 90 minutes alloted to a film or the 5 minutes alloted to a blog post?
I don't know if it will have this effect on everyone, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I saw it. For me, seeing this movie was one of those experiences that divide your life into the part before it happened, and the part after.
If you don't want to see the movie but do want to learn more about the subject, see the long compilation of links about charter schools, teachers' unions, and bureaucratic fighting that characterizes the modern school system here: http://jseliger.com/2009/11/12/susan-engel-doesnt-get .
I originally started that post as a reply to a particular article, but as I kept coming across more and more information about how the system works, the bulleted list of links kept growing.
If you're pressed for time, read the first two: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/08/31/090831fa_fact_... and http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/15/081215fa_fact_... .
What I wonder is how many people like yourself will take that sudden gnawing question and begin working towards the change you believe in. Will it create a new wave of activists, movers, shakers and changers? Or just change the popular topic of conversation at cocktail parties and social news websites?
I haven't seen it yet so I can't comment much (though I watched the NBC specials and have read quite a bit about it), however from my understanding it covers just a thin sliver of the real problems within our schools that have existed for some time already. In addition, I haven't heard that it offers much in terms of solutions, other than one that isn't especially exhaustive or touches anywhere near the root of the problems. Instead, it seems to shift power from one bureaucracy to another and shift teacher focus even further from student development and learning to surviving evaluations on the teacher and student fronts.
Anyway, the movie isn't out yet where I live but I am very curious to watch it and see if this is true for myself.
On another note, do you think we'll see a spike in Y Combinator funded education related startups as a result of this? :)
The fact is that poor kids learn just as much or more in school as wealthy kids, they just start several years behind because of bad parenting. And over the summers when wealthy kids are learning and going forward, the poor kids are actually going backwards. Which is why the average 13 year old white kid has the same standardized test scores as the average 17 year old black kid.
In addition, one of the most famous findings from all of education research is that within-school effects are greater than between-school effects. That means that school tracking has a much greater impact on how much your child learns than whether they go to a good school or a bad school. (The movie touches on tracking but doesn't really explain it.) Especially since kids are sorted into tracks based more on their race and looks than on their ability. 
Anyway all the problems the movie mentions are completely true, and they need to be solved, but spreading good parenting best-practices and the changing systemic design of school itself are much better solutions than implementing KIPP, which as far as I can tell (after reading a bunch of articles and a book on it) is a huge step in the wrong direction. There is zero evidence that the program works at all in the long term, especially since it conflicts with all of the research on intrinsic motivation. These kids might make some academic gains in the short term, but in the long term it's hard to believe that they'll be anywhere near as well off as even middle class Americans. The fact that these programs produce decent test results in the short term has basically zero predictive value for determining the long term outcomes. Maybe they'll be better than I think, who knows, but advocating replacing our current school system with this for only low-income minorities without having the longterm data is a huge scam.
It's a shame because the Harlem Children Zone actually has a great baby college program for parents, but the movie just mentions this in passing. In reality programs like would be an excellent use of tax dollars because they are actually consistent (for the most part) with the current research on best practices for parenting, unlike KIPP which is just completely pulled out of some guy's ass. (Although most of these programs don't yet show good longterm results, so more tweaking is needed.)
It says a lot about America that our most popular school reform movie is targeted at people who don't read books.
 "Can the culture of child-rearing be changed in poor neighborhoods, and if so, is that a project that government or community organizations have the ability, or the right, to take on?" http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/magazine/26tough.html
 C.f. What It Takes To Make A Student
 C.f. Equality And Achievement
 It Take A City
On an interesting side note, Steve Sailer has said something like what you're saying about this topic, although I imagine he's coming at it from a different angle than you: http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/05/todays-universal-preschoo...
E.g. Cecil Rhodes was held in high estimation from the Ndebele people to the point of receiving a king-like burial ritual from them, but he still thought that british were god's gift to mankind.
You say they're missing long term data - how else do would they acquire the relevant data without actually implementing the schools? It's not a huge scam, it's an experiment in lifting up the bottom of our society. And it seems to be working.
I don't care if it's pulled out of some guy's ass, as long as it works and validated.
As of a year ago when Paul Tough's book came out all they had were standardized test scores. Not sure if there is any new research, but as far as I've seen there are no studies on longterm outcomes yet.
"How else do would they acquire the relevant data without actually implementing the schools?"
Ignoring the fact that the KIPP methodology is at odds with established research on what leads to good outcomes, I'd say that we should implement the schools. But we shouldn't force all schools to adopt this system until we know they work. It's not the schools that are a scam, it's the movement to spread the system throughout the country without properly validating it first.
You could minimize the damage done by "the current system" (control group) by making the majority of schools into testing grounds for various competing educational theories, and see which one produces the best results.
I read books and haven't watched the movie, but in effect if not intent you're arguing for the status quo. You can't change the status quo without changing the teachers' unions. You can't easily negotiate with them either, so charter schools are an imperfect but useful way of isolating the problem to the extent possible.
But please, let's continue to act like we can solve the problem by demonizing the teachers unions.
Because there are many countries without teacher unions that don't abuse teachers.
For one thing our puritanical roots. Before unions teachers regularly got fired for things like interracial dating, going to a bar, being in town after dark, etc.
Way back in 1910 small town America, you could be fired from all sorts of respectable professions for many of the things you mentioned. Certainly, no one would want their money manager doing disreputable things like what you mention. And yet even without a union, I've managed to avoid getting fired for interracial dating. I've even gone to a bar in town after dark with my boss!
I think you are engaging in the post-hoc fallacy.
Let's also not forget that the good old days of American schooling depended on a society where slightly over half the population had severely limited opportunities in the workforce. Even with the unions, teachers wages were depressed, and the entire profession devalued because other careers and jobs weren't open to women.
Well, I suppose you can. But you can't if you want me to take your rhetoric seriously.
The author also attributes the crisis in American education to standardized tests. He doesn't back this up. Standardized tests work well in countries like China and India, from which so many of our engineering grad students hail. Granted that no standardized test is perfect, it boggles my mind that Swartz would call it the educational crisis.
I've seen great teachers in horrible schools make a huge difference. The tough part though is that follow-up with kids is tough. You see a class make incredible improvements one year and then over the next four years have less than stellar teachers again. They slowly give back what thy've gained.
This is why the Harlem Children Zone is an example of the right step.
Here's a nice graphic from the NYTimes:
The real problem is that we have an artificial line for proficiency. If you look at the graphics you can see that they can move that line once again, and again largely affect minority schools downward, even if they make substantial gains over the next few years.
It would be far better to have each school release mean/median/stdev or deciles of their scores. This will really give you a much better idea of the improvement in a school.
But anyways, back to HCZ. They've still shown great improvement, even if proficiency has taken a step back from 100% in some cases due to a change in the proficiency line.
One of them recently suggested that supplementing their school's non-curriculum with Sal Khan's online exercises (explained here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRf6XiEZ_Y8) might make for something close to an ideal education.
Of course, since I'm so humble, I may be wrong and ignored. :-)
My daughter goes to a school that does well by these measures. It _is_ a good school, but the teachers basically teach to the test* -- given the rather punitive structure of the laws, they don't have much choice. Performance is directly tied to funding. Is that really the best way to teach kids? I'm doubtful.
I think we do need good teachers, but I'm not at all convinced that test scores are a good way to measure that, anymore than lines of code are a good way to measure programmers. I do want kids to learn, but I'm not very convinced this is the best route to that.
I don't think there is any easy solution. Kids with parents who value education tend to do better -- that's a huge factor. Resources certainly help; those of us who care tend to live in better school districts (often with higher tax rates) -- is that really a sensible way to run the schools? I mean, it works for me, but why should we under-resource kids whose parents don't care about education? But there is no doubt that you can pour money at this problem and get nowhere if you spend it poorly. (That's true of all problems, though.)
All this emphasis on education can go overboard. Where I live, even in grade school they get only one short recess a day (unlike the two, slightly longer, ones I grew up with). Does that make sense? In a nation with a national obesity epidemic? And, even in very early grades, they come home with a LOT of homework. When are they supposed to go outside and play?
*I don't mean they literally teach the tests, but they certainly spend a lot of time structuring their materials around the way test questions are phrased, and in teaching kids test-taking strategies. Do I think fourth-graders should need to learn how to take tests? No.
When grades started to matter in middle and high school, my competitive side came out. I decided I was going to get better grades than most because that would lead to a future with more options. I also cared more because my peers cared more and I was socially self-conscious. When I started trying harder, I started learning more and became genuinely interested in subject matter. My grades lead to me getting into a good college where students were far more motivated on average than my high school. That ended up being where I met my best friends and eventual startup co-founder.
Did my best learning experiences come from studying for tests? No, they came less structured classes and from my own programming projects during and after college. However, I do feel that grades and standardized tests lit a fire under my booty to try harder and eventually led to me meeting more motivated people.
I finish high school (last 2 years) in Florida where I had to take the FCAT. The first thing that I found dumb about this test was that it wasn't at all tied to the subjects I was learning. It was meant to test more generic level concepts, in turn this exam was a pure joke and proved nothing other than a lot of kids have trouble writing an essay.
My point is, standardized test should be used to keep similar classes at different schools from diverging too much curriculum wise. An algebra class at school X shouldn't be completely off from the same course at school Y. Testing random problem solving skills and language isn't going to help with that.
Even much better teachers and organized schools won't be able to educate kids who don't want to learn. Subjects like math, science, and English aren't "boring." American kids are just too lazy to put in the work to appreciate them.
The real gap in American education is an "effort gap."
I attended a lower-middle income Southern California high school with a primarily caucasian and latino student population. Neither group of students cared that much about school and test scores showed it. We did have a great sports teams. The city over the hill, Rowland Heights, had a primarily Asian student population. They had great scores, graduation rates, etc. However, their football team sucked. The asian parents pushed their kids hard to learn. The parents of students at my high school only pushed them on the sports field and not in the classroom.
Pedagogy, class size, quality of teachers, testing/not testing - these things are all important but miniscule in impact when compared to actual student effort. I think charter schools do well in large part to the fact that they attract kids who care. Their success will diminish once you include kids who don't.
Instead of asking "Why Johnny can't read," we should be asking "Why Johnny doesn't get off his ass and study."
First of all, you have to measure things and you have to have somebody accountable for things. This is true no matter what the thing you are talking about. I don't see how much hand-waving and complaining about society's morals and values is going to get you beyond this extremely reasonable requirement.
Second -- and this is ironic -- folks have been complaining about the quality of schools for years. Some of you guys act like this is the first you've heard of it. We've dropped boatloads of money in education. Wake up and see where all this centralized planning, factory-mentality, and unionized system has gotten you. I think it's great people are paying attention. We've missed you. Welcome to the party.
It's a very complicated situation, and I don't see a solution emerging any time soon, unfortunately. I know I called out unions and such in my graph above, but in reality it's a very complex situation. The best I can come up with is that you're better off giving the money to the parents in the form of vouchers and letting various systems compete against each other. Or you can keep trying to make one-size-fits-all solutions. Good luck with that.
Why Johnny Can't Read was published in 1955.
"Federal Aid to Education" was a big political issue before "Sputnik ended that debate" (it was launched in 1957; http://www.jerrypournelle.com/view/2010/Q1/view613.html).
Heinlein also touched on this in Have Space Suit—Will Travel in 1958.
My wife works at the best school in the county (not country!). If a student fails a single test, she is told that the kid will be sat down after school, retaught the course work, and be given the test a 2nd time. Any student with a learning disability on record (including ADHD) is all but exempt from any standards set by the teacher.
Furthermore, teachers are encouraged to "round up" to look better for the school district. If a student fails a class, they will spend time in front of a computer for 3 weeks to make up the credit. If a student fails to have enough credits before graduation, they will still let you walk the stage and you can simply come back during the summer to sit in front of a computer.
There's no social stigma of failure in the school's culture anymore, and that also comes from the family life (the F from jamwt's post). The student could care less about grades because the parents don't care and they will just have them work at the shop after high school.
This carries on with the teachers. Tenure is a very dangerous asset that a teacher can have, and it keeps the bad teachers in. Students will come into my wife's English class without a basic knowledge of sentence structure and many other things that ought to have been known by this age, and the grade level below her shows videos for a very large amount of time. They will read 1/4 of Romeo and Juliet and just watch the rest on TV without any analysis of the material.
This is a social and political system in which individual failure has been discouraged, removed, and subsidized. While positive reinforcements (good grades, more money after graduation) can certainly help, the fact that the lack of hard work can be shrugged off so easily has to be a component of school under-performance.
And what about the idea that government is somehow the ideal institution to dispense enlightenment? Would we trust it with dispensing the news or even the authoring of a comic book?
The author is saying, the problem with education in the US is not that poor teachers are nearly impossible to fire, but is really something else?
It seems an improvement making it easier to fire poor teachers would be of great help. Why is the author highlighting this idea as an example of a bad idea? To me, this would be the most positive single change that could be made.
There's a more general problem that judging a teacher concretely, fairly, consistently, is damn-near impossible. I don't think there's an easy answer to the question of what an administrator would use in the absence of value-added education (i.e. the application of test scores), but I'll bet the parents act independently of that system, and serve as a check on it.
It's sort of like vast quantities of high quality goods were not produced until people figured out how to produce such without requiring highly skilled craftsmen.
I try not to generally opine too much. I think maybe I'm too
cynical, too weary of ideologues when I usually just see shades of gray,
too ambivalent given the fact that I feel "public" knowledge (including
my own) is painfully devoid of the real complexities that make these
issues difficult to solve.
But I've been feeling strangely compelled to say something on this issue
and this movie because it feels kind of personal. I have several close family members
that have spent significant portions of their career (from teaching to counseling to administration) in California
public education for the last 40 years.
(My opinion, however, is based on my observations of their
experiences, but doesn't necessarily directly reflect their own beliefs.)
Now, this is a simplified model, of course, but there seems to me to be
this function that (roughly) determine's your "success", using
the common score-based or elite-college-acceptance-based measure, in
S = ?I + ?F + ?P + ?T
S is Success
I is Intelligence ("Nature" IQ, Personal Ambition, etc.. innate properties)
F is Family Factors ("Nurture", Education of Parents, Expectations, etc)
P is Peer Group (aka, the ambient F + I of your adjacent students)
T is Teaching (quality of instruction, instructional program, instructional personnel)
They're not entirely independent, but close enough to do fake science. For
the sake of argument, let's say "I" is fixed for each individual,
so I'm ignoring it.
The big question, it seems, is what exactly the constants are at each question mark.
I believe these films and essays and ponderances and political campaigns
that focus so entirely on the "T", are focusing on the wrong thing. It probably
has the smallest constant--and the least impact, positive or negative.
Granted: there are numerous, valid arguments to make about tenure being terrible. There
are myraid complaints that can be fairly leveled against unions. Yes, public
educational programs can sometimes be uninspired, obsolete, and unambitious.
But fantastic teachers in "bad schools" do worse (in their students' aggregate
S terms) than apathetic teachers
in "good schools." If you talked to teachers, and they were in
a candid mood, my guess is you'd discover this is widely accepted.
They know how hopeless it can be to fight upstream in a "bad school"...
and that's because the F and P factors are stacked against you, and those
constants are much larger.
Teachers, even good teachers, seldom can trump the influence of family and peers.
If we take the charter schools in the film as an example, I think self-selection bias is
at play. It really fits _perfectly_ with the forumla and the low-T-constant theory:
The parents who elect to enter the lottery are exhibiting a strong "F" factor, and,
if they succeed in winning a slot, their child enters an environment with a
bunch of other kids from high-F families, resulting in a great "P".
And yes, the teachers might be better too, and the instruction might be better.
But the teachers themselves are self-selecting! The very act of teaching at a school
where people fight to get in generally provides a student body full of willing students
coming from encouraging families. Of course those kids will learn!
And the "better" the teacher is, the more mobile they often are and the
better shot they have at the "good" teaching jobs.. aka, the classrooms
full of willing students.
Granted, there are amazing, indefatigable teachers who spend a career teaching in "bad" classrooms,
but they're the exception, not the rule. In my observation, the common case
is enthusiastic, smart, well-educated young teachers can stick it out for a few years.
Then, they're human after all, they capitulate, exhausted, and drag their
shattered ideals to a different school with a more receptive
classroom environment (if they remain in teaching at all). It's job satisfaction; it's self-preservation. (Analogy:
generally, great hackers don't want to be test engineers even if that's
possibly where they could do the most good.)
I say: the real problem is cultural (and literally, cultural, not racial).
Maybe, it's who our heros are, and our parents' heros are, and the dubious-expected-outcome
nature of the "American Dream." Maybe it's what's viewed as "the way out" by older
brothers and sisters and friends. Maybe's it's a generation's assumption that the last 100 years of American prosperity was inevitable, predestined, God-given, and not the product of a whole damn lot of work by their predecessor citizens. Hell, I dunno, cause figuring that out is the
hard part that probably has many potential answers.
If you really look at all those other countries that ourscore the US--I think it's worth
examining the cultural assessment of the value of study. The classrooms, the teachers,
the salaries, and the very students, are a natural outgrowth of that.
But that means it's the F, and consequently the P that have the biggest constants.
The T is--honestly--noise. A blip in the trend line. Good teachers can
accelerate good students, but they don't make them.
So why isn't this the predominant dialog?
Teachers and teaching are an easy scapegoat because, yes, they have evident problems,
and because it's sort of deceptively intuitive that if people aren't learning,
it's because they're not being taught. But I think, really, the criticism centers on them because
teachers aren't us--every family, and critically, every voter. People want an outlet
for their anger when Americans are undereducated. But what politician will face
the camera and say to the voting population "it's mostly your fault"? Who wants to go see a movie where the audience is the villain? (Aside: actually, that sounds kind of rad.)
So, shades of gray reality check: I have no idea what the answer is, but the first step
seems to be ensuring we've actually identified the problem. That's the programmer in
To take your analysis one more step, I would like to break out the "I" component of your model a bit further. The "I" could comprise of "N" (inner nature/general intelligence) and "B" behavior, as I believe behavior can fluctuate independently of inner nature/intelligence and so should perhaps not be grouped.
Most behavior (B) early on arises out of primary influences. These influences are mostly people who one idolizes or looks up to, which depends some on one's inner nature (N). For some, the family (F) is the main influence and role model, other times friends/peers (P) are, and other times other societal influences (movies, media, community, etc.) are the leading influencers. Within schools, where a large part of a child's life is spent, teachers (T) are the primary influencers.
Given this, and given that influencing children is easier than influencing parents/adults/community/media, reeducating or focusing on teacher quality sounds like a good option. The "T" improvement would then improve the "B", the "B" improve the "P" and "F", and life would be very hypothetically good.
S = ?F + ?P + ?B + ?T + ?N
So here I'm not saying that teachers are a primary fault for the problems, however my main point is that I do believe they can supply massive positive influence (just like the P and F can), which in most cases they aren't doing. Perhaps this shows that the role of a teacher needs to be rethought from authoritative instructor focusing on knowledge transfer; to friend, mentor, care-taker, and personal guide to each individual in hopes of supplying inspiration.
Teachers and teaching methods that are engaging, for example, will tend to promote better behavior within the classroom. Teachers and methods that inspire most of the class to think learning is "cool" and worthwhile will improve the whole peer group. There is a lot of feedback involved. Unfortunately, as you point out, the expected "role of a teacher" isn't really well geared to produce excellent teachers using excellent methods.
So the function that "seem to be" was at least also statistically recongnized and studied :)
(Also, it would point in the direction that what is needed for better education is a more homogeneous mix of the kids, I guess)
I hate to do this, but mathematically it wouldn't matter what those individual constants are since they're all being multiplied together. The equation you want probably looks more like
S = I^? x F^? x P^? x T^?
This metric is not that useful, for reasons you correctly identify. What would be useful (as far as evaluating teaching goes) but which people seem quite averse to measuring, is the rate of relative improvement, ie the first derivative of aggregated test scores over time.
It's a re-examination of goals, in a way. Improving teaching is a goal, but only so much as it serves to better educate students. So: is that the largest component in the US's current production of poorly educated students?
If I were making a movie, to invoke emotion and to inspire people (read: wide audiences) to think and to change, is that the most valuable way I could challenge the audience? Is that the part of the equation with the largest impact? I'm arguing it isn't.
There may be some backing argument that would change my mind entirely, but this seems like crazy agenda-before-the-horse thinking.