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Bill Gates and I agree

His new memo about how to improve education in the U.S. (based on what his foundation has learned in the last few years)

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Better Teachers Produce Better Results.

DUH??! LOL wut?

Until parents can "vote with their feet" there's no pressure on school administration to dump the underperforming teachers. As much as Bill says "choosing better schools isn't as important as choosing better teachers," as a parent, the only way to choose better teachers is often to choose better schools.

In a recent New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell he asserted that the best teachers tech 1 1/2 years of work in 1 year and the worst 1/2 a year in a year. The article was about how to select good people (he covered 3 professions - NFL quarterbacks, teachers, and financial advisors) and showed how difficult it was to make a prediction based upon past performance but there is a lot you can do by observing current performance and coaching. As far as improving schools went his basic suggestion was to fire the worst teachers and replace them as the most cost effective and inexpensive way. He contrasted that to the current trend to make classroom size smaller which is very expensive since it requires more staff and more class rooms.

Gates's article says what about what works? I found only one thing: charter schools work better than existing schools, even when you try your best to improve existing schools. He said he compared what works with what doesn't, but he doesn't list his results, other than the above.

Charter schools have one thing in common with each other and one thing different from non-charter schools. That one thing is involved parents. There are parents who care deeply about their children's education and will do what it takes to ensure their children receive what they need. Building charter schools clusters a large fraction of those parents together, which is like separating oil and vinegar in a previously emulsified solution. This doesn't prove you know a damned thing about education.

So where, exactly, do you agree with Gates?

In the area where I grew up and lived until last year, the big deal was how much better the private schools (which were all religious and almost all Roman Catholic) performed compared to public schools. In addition to the likely more involved parents, the private schools there were permitted to kick out kids who didn't do well academically.

I noticed the same thing... the high school I went to (private, RC) had a great graduation rate, but that's partially because they kicked anyone out who wouldn't make it.

I was focusing on things like:

-- the schools that didn't take big risks didn't get any improvement

-- better teachers exist even in bad schools; school choice doesn't matter

-- Teachers don't share information; having the best teachers open source their lesson plans so others can use it would be a big win.

My issue with public schools is that principles are encouraged to be "administrators not leaders". That is, they are rewarded for keeping the status quo running and discouraged from making radical changes. The former is called "leadership" and it is exactly what we need to inspire in public schools.

Gotta love it: study the teachers who get results and train others in their methods. What could be more helpful? And the insight that educational excellence differs more between classrooms within a school than between schools--brilliant!

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