A respected researcher recently pointed out to me that there is a vast divide between most economists of education–who devoutly believe (it seems) that whatever matters can be measured, and if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t matter–and education researchers, who tend to think about the real world of students and teachers.

Here is an excellent example of the divide.

Bruce Baker takes issue with the currently fashionable idea that education can be dramatically improved by identifying the “best” teachers, giving them larger classes, and getting rid of the loser teachers.

Or, as he puts it:

“The solution to all of our woes is simple and elegant. Just follow these steps.

Step 1: Identify “really great” teachers (using your best VAM or SGP) who happen to be currently teaching inefficiently small classes of 14 to 17 students.

Step 2: Re-assign to those “really great” teachers another 12 or so students, because whatever losses might occur in relation to increased class size, the benefits of the “really great” teacher will far outweigh those losses.

Step 3: Enter underpants Gnomes.

Step 4. Test Score Awesomeness!”

He has a suggestion: Why not try the same at the fancy private and public schools?.

“One might assert that affluent suburban Westchester and Long Island districts with much smaller average class sizes should give more serious consideration to this proposal, that is, if they are a) willing to accept the assertion that they have both “bad” and “good” teachers and b) that parents in their districts are really willing to permit such experimentation with their children? I remain unconvinced.

“As for leading private independent schools which continue to use small class size as a major selling point (& differentiator from public districts), I’m currently pondering the construction of the double-decker Harkness table, to accommodate 12 students sitting on the backs of 12 others. This will be a disruptive innovation like no other!”