« Freakonomics Radio

188. Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?

2014-11-27 | 🔗
If U.S. schoolteachers are indeed “just a little bit below average,” it’s not really their fault. So what should be done about it?
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This podcast dynamically inserts audio advertisements of varying lengths for each download. As a result, the transcription time indexes may be inaccurate.
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That's if flash then no spaces, listen instead, sure ass, all the serious ex em up or wherever you got your PA tasks. him, I read somebody said it is hard to get into it's getting their mighty that's your Klein. He knows a little bit of in education in education, schools and I'm no, they seal ratify witches in education technology companies started by Newscorp before that for little over a year as I was just schools, Chancellor, in New York City on the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, Klein has rolled his education experience into a new book, called lessons of hope how to fix our schools that Billy mentioned about Ed Schools in Philly.
He was citing Amanda Ripley wrote a book called the smartest kids in the world and how they got that to get into education, in Finland is like getting into MIT and the United States and imagine what could follow if, if that were true here, imagine what could follow if that were true here they created a set of expectations brought people into. the news? Nothing like self fulfilling prophecy, but it's not that hard to get into an education school in the? U S, not that hard to become a schoolteacher. As a result, you s teachers are now they're, just a little bit below average. That's Dana Goldstein. She has written a book called the teacher wars history of America's most embattled profession, and that is unusual. Compare tell out of the nations that we compare ourselves to whether its Japan, South Korea or Finland, Gaffin hearing them
and as a comparison, that the typical public school teacher graduating the top ten percent of their high schools taking more and more people from the bottom half or even the bottom third of their college. Graduating class and that's always seem to me to be a big mistake. we ve all heard the depressing numbers when compared to kids from other rich countries. U S. Students are also little bit below average, especially in math, even though we spend more money per student in most other countries. So is the problem. Here a simple is adding two plus two and getting for is the problem here that our students aren't getting very bright and school simply because our teachers are very great I'm happy
from the w and my see. This is for economics, radio, the pine camp that explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host Stephen Governor, yeah. Ok. Let's start with a few caveats: when say that U S, students are doing very well and that U S, teachers aren't the best and brightest, but remember that we're talking about average, There are, of course, millions of american kids who get a great education and public school There are, of course, many many excellent teachers. We should also note that, just because a future teacher finishes near the top of their haste,
college class doesn't necessarily mean that will be a great classroom teacher. In any case, the subject of teacher skill has taken over The education debate teachers matter so instead of bashing them or defending the status quo. What's offer school give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job and reward the best. One. That's President Obama, from his two thousand twelve states of the union speech in this is John Friedman. Are but was first posted on line right at the beginning of January, two thousand and twelve, which was actually two days after my first son was born. Friedman is an economist who works on public policy. It harbours Kennedy school. The article he's talking about is called the long term impact of teachers, teacher value added, student outcomes in adulthood, and our paper got a lot of attention and I was juggling trying to help my wife
for a new born and deal with various people who wanted to talk, and it was lay one night I nine forty five we put our son too bad in was running out to babies are asked to pick up some diapers and I slipped on the radio, and I heard the present stay. The union start talk about education and I said well, You know it's been getting a lot of attention, maybe he'll mention it, maybe not, but probably not, and he just got closer and closer the topic and soon if there was a quarter of a million dollars for a better teacher, just set it right, there is pretty amazing game. We know a good teacher can increase the lifetime income of a classroom by over two hundred fifty thousand dollars. A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty, to the child dreams beyond a circumstance. Every person in this chamber and point to a teacher chain
the trajectory of their lives? You know a lot of the time. Academics work to get their work published in act. ethnic journals or to get their works by their colleagues and to see policy, work being cited by the president. Just gave me a real great feeling that people out there listening to what we were working on? Not only were people listening, the paper that Friedman wrote along with CO authors, Roger Jedi in Jonah Rock off became the chief topic of precision in the never ending debate about education reform free himself wound up working for several months as White House adviser here is the papers central argument, we find it useful to think about a really great teacher, a top five percent teacher coming into a school and replacing a teacher who was average now that's
institution for just a single classroom will increase the future earnings of those students by nearly one point: five million dollars over the course of their careers and, of course, that money will come far in the future. So if you about discounting one point Million dollars over their careers is the same thing as a quarter of a million dollars deposited in the bank that same year to accrue interesting. But the students consume more over their lives. But it's not just at students. Higher wages. We also that are more likely to go to college there more likely to not just hi paying jobs, but high quality jobs there more likely to live in high quality neighbourhoods and even for female students.
We see that there are less likely to have children and teenagers that doesn't sound exactly revolutionary. Does it. A great teacher is better than an average teacher and, furthermore, the gains of great teaching amplify over the course of students lifetime Joel Klein, the former near city schools. Chancellor also sees this. I have no doubt that what matters most is the teacher in the clash of Katy twelve Kindergartner twelve grades, in Amerika S, assistance driven by teachers the quality of teaching which affect not only is the sort of content in I want you to turn, requires skills giant above, but really human level, the confidence and maturation itself or so at the top, for me, would always be a teachers Teachers are the absolute most important people in our educational system. That's Dave, Levin,
former teacher and co founder of the Kip schools. Kip K, I p p, it stands for knowledge. Is power programme began nineteen. Ninety four. It is now a national network of public schools general. Regarded as very high performing and when you think about the most important. People in a kids life outside of their family. It starts with their tea, I mean for the obvious reason right: you leave home, you go to school and a teacher is a determinant of how that day goes and even as the kids get older. We in all the research says. The pure effect is so essential. Teachers have a huge impact on how peers interact and in the classroom
ok, so the teachers role is so important and if a great teacher is so much more effective than not re teacher, the solutions pretty easy, isn't it find more greek teachers or maybe do a better job of preparing teachers to be great? and while you're at it, maybe we should also raise teacher salaries. We're gonna talk about all those ideas as we move forward, but let's begin by going back to the beginning of the teaching profession yeah, a lot of people, don't realize that an eighteen hundred teaching and a public school in front of say mixed gender groups of children was considered a job that was really only appropriate form man, it's demagogues and that changed over the core. The nineteenth I warrant. Why was it was considered very public you're, very public you're very out,
there. You are earning money in a public way and you're in front of mixed gender suit. Her beautiful inappropriate inappropriate, especially for a middle class, a white woman to do that type of work, and I right in the first chapter of the book about Catherine be church. with Harriet Beecher Stowe sister came from their strong, socially committed abolitionist family and the way she sort of conceived of teaching was that because women were natural born mothers. They were biologically suited to defending time of children that they would be wonderful teachers in the classroom as well and she's interested in this, because she does. she's not going to get married, and she would like to have something interesting to do with her life other than kind of. An old maid, which is this- you know horrible nineteenth century stereo type of the single woman. So she would like single
I meant to have a socially useful role in the young American democratic experiment in the early nineteenth century and she conceived the public school teaching as the way to do that and policymakers, like Horace Man, whose concern the founder of our public school system. This is very attractive to them on a on an economic level, yes, for pragmatic reasons. I mean, if you're going to make public schooling compulsory, which did not happen across all the states until the late nineteenth century. If you're going to do that, you need money, more teachers and while you can pay women, fifty percent as much so this feminine modesty, morale and he argument that goes out to the military. Catherine Beecher makes this argument and then male politician for they love that does it nouns really go, but also cheap went to kindergarten through graduated from high school in public schools in Brooklyn and quaint Joel Klein. Again there was nineteen fifty one through nineteen sixty three, when I think
those years in New York City, particularly, but in U S public education generally, I think of them as a kind of golden era. Was that a golden year of Power school education. On the one hand, we expected so much less from education in who stays and what I mean by it always struck me when I start a public school in your city and nineteen. Fifty one student, approximately sixty turn of America's workforce. For high school dropout today the number is probably five: six percent and declining So, in some respects what we expected from education was different, but I do think in others, she was a golden Urien that during our It certainly my experience, and I think nationally experience was that teaches particularly women teachers not having a kind about Tunisia have today, He would draw really high quality people into the field. That's not an argument for denying women opportunities
spurring. The beneficiary of sexism now has taken place were very high, Quality talented women want to work, This is the brain drain. Fury of U S! Teaching it argues that as well Educated women start having the opportunity to become lawyers and doctors and engineers the talent pool for teachers got shallower and relative to those other professions King became a relatively low paying profession soundly, median income for the american public school teachers about fifty four thousand dollars per year, and actually, if you look at the median incomes for chairs and other nations. It's not that differently. However, what economists have set about this? As you can't just look at the salary itself, you have to look at the gaps between what college educated workers indifferent fields make. So, for example, the United States, the difference, what an attorney Manx and what a teacher makes is much larger than the difference between the typical attorney identical
teacher in Finland are South Korea or the typical teaching the typical engineer, a much smaller. And then South Korea than the United States. So in general, Kip teachers will be making more working longer hours, so they're making more money. For that time, that's Dave Levin from Kip and as a society, you know we have to start thinking. Yes, your star pain teachers more and recognised there? We professions have pay more. What else can we do to make teaching as respected as soon as possible. I mean a new one of my favorite ideas is for teachers. who continue to teach pass their fifth year that we consider some type of tax break in tax incentive for them. Including the possibility that they don't pay income tax, reckon Now we are always the older pay teachers more, but there are ways that we can say to teachers: hey you are a national. pressure. You are essential to the future of the country, and I think, if we are serious about that,
It can really make a huge difference. Even little things like you. I know it sounds a little, but you know we have armed Forces board. aeroplanes. First, well, why not have armed forces and teachers board born aeroplanes? First, you know. I just think there are lots of ways we could think about value in the teaching profession more. coming up on for economics, radio itself pretend that boosting teacher salaries would automatically fix everything. So I think yes, The way we train teachers is fundamentally broken in this, and is it really fair to blame. Only the teachers often used to children who say you know: parents gave us a bit
is that they have the first educated. By the same token, kids come with the best parents, they're gonna get, and we have to take them. where they are. Fr Economics, radio is supported by zip recruiter. Businesses have had to be flexible this from working remote. We too pivoting their business models for long term survival. If you are in charge of hiring for your business. These pivots have made your even more challenging, thankfully theirs. one place that you can count on to make hiring easier, zip, recruiter, dot, com, flash freak, zip, recruiters technology, finds the right people,
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The first outlook in how we look at science and engineering and technology and map, then what This is possible. I get. When I get to speak to these people carriages tat back into my curiosity excitement. You know that I have a kid about all these topics so come on this journey with as we learn from some of the poorest smartest people in their fields. If then is out now just search, if slash than to find the show that, if slash then no spaces, listen in stature Apple, the serious Ex m F or wherever you get your PA casts, from W and Y see. This is for economics, radio, here's your host Stephen governor We ve been talking about teachers, skill in the U S and how important that is
back through all the different educational reforms we tried in american history? They ve always been motivated by our fears of the worst teacher that's Dana Goldstein, author of the teacher wars, so we started the assumption that our teachers are failing- and we know there are often not doing as well as we want them to, and then we decided we would like to get them out so find ways to weaken their jobs. Can you get them out of the classroom and to bring a new car dry of teachers and who are going to do better and what I found that this pair of solutions driving people out bringing new people man, it's not enough because the demand for teachers are so high, we do need a hundred thousand new teachers every year to satisfy the labour market, so what I suggest is instead of starting with our fear of bad teaching. We look at teachers who are at what they do right here in the United States, and we ask about how to create systems where we can replicate their best practice.
Yeah. I mean, I think there is a tremendous like amazing teachers, it everywhere in the country? That's Dave, Levin from the Kip schools and the success of keeping the beginning has been able to recruit them? to come work with us to help them I would become even better and then they have to stay with us over time in all of which we ve worked really hard, and I think there are a couple of key aspects to it makes our teacher successful is this combination of head in heart. When I mean that is the ability to simultaneously deliver rigorous contact, consider that in part, while also simultaneous, motivating and engaging kids to care deeply about themselves, their future and the content has been delivered considered at the harpies. Is that really combination of rigour with joy? Then? I think Kip teachers are exceptional and we spend a lot of time working
and in addition to that, I think is theirs is recognition. I kept that character. Academics are interwoven in every minute of every day, with everything that happens, and so there's an old James, Baldwin Children have never been very good at listening. There others, but it never fail to imitate them, and I think our teachers take that incredibly seriously, and so, if we're expecting our kids to work hard and be nice, our teachers believed that they need to do the same for expect accused her to love, math and reading. Then teachers need to show the same love of math and really talk to me for just a minute about how teaching is taught generally in the country. I'd especially like, if you could talk about it in light of the The kind of common thought experiment, I'm sure you ve heard it. You know if, if you went to sleep, a hundred and twenty two hundred thirty years ago, woke up today, almost everything in the world would have changed, except for the classroom where there is one teacher up in front of twenty
thirty kids with chalkboard and so on, and I'm curious what you think about how teaching generally talk in this country and if its found lacking which I assume you say it is whether that's because its stuck in the past or maybe because it's a lot harder problem than we think I think it s the way we train teachers is fundamentally broken in this country and I think that's true. Reed levels. So, on its disproportionately theory, and so you'll learn about theories development, learn about theories of math instruction or theories of reading instruction And all that's actually important issues. I am not sure of that. What good the theory of math instruction is, if you don't actually know how to deliver a lesson on math as well number two. We have two problems with the way we approach content
in his country. There is no doubt that content is clean and king, so the import so, content mastery in the classroom is absolutely essential. Having said that, sometimes the best math teachers, weren't necessarily the best math students, because you know you often teach better. What you weren't so good at, because you, She had to work to learning and yet very often yet have a certain number of college credit. in math. In order to be a math teacher, there's truth That's for sure, when you the more complicated and higher levels at Kay However, you need to be able to deliver the content Never mastery over that and that isn't necessarily meaning you had a MAC degree in order to teach fractions use need to be able to actually We stand the nuances behind for and right now we are assuming that if you're a MAC degree you can
each man, as opposed to need, have been taught the content the problem with the way teachers are trained, We are not training teachers right now to meet the challenges of our kids today right, so To this extent, we are sort of steel training teachers for classrooms of the past, so we're not teaching teachers well enough how to effectively differentiate for the vast range of skills the kids have when I teaching it effectively enough how to use technology to further teaching and- teaching teachers, how to me school relevant for what kids are really needed to succeed, colleges they may go to where the careers or pursue you know twenty years now. So when you say that the way we teach teachers is fundamentally broken, and then you described these dimensions on which its not working. I guess my next question is very obvious one, which is why I mean you know in my
areas of higher add the the curriculum and methodology pedagogy adapts over time. I mean the way. Computer science is taught now really different than was taught thirty years ago, and the failings that you describe they sound may be hard to address, but not complicate. So why hasn't the teaching of teachers evolved. So why hasn't this change? One Just a metaphor: there's like the bar exam, we're peoples, the increase for the bar exam because they need to pass it to get their credentials, but it doesn't say reflect what they do, then, when they go to practice, education is even worse because you get your masters than your practice and there's no reverse accountability, and if you think about computer science, example: you gave coders, who aren't up on there. using code, those get hired and so there's a feedback loop there right or of doctors, aren't train and the current medicines
He found him, though those doctors and sellers feedback loop there, but an education that feedback loop doesn't exist. Teachers go in the classroom, and why is that I mean? Is it partly because I mean? Are we seeing kind of the backside of the fact that teaching is? You know a public institution, a government institution governments just have different ways of verifying and qualifying people then does private practice So why is that a minute? I think, they're Kepler couple reasons. It has been historic very very hard to evaluate remove ineffective teachers. How your true and in your future performance have been very, very disconnected now, there's been a big push recently around teacher evaluation and teacher accountability, but people still aren't really connecting the entire cycle between the recruiting developing and
Training of teachers, teaching is arguably one of the most important professions in our country, and it still divided conversation we talk about developing teachers, but you listen to the public conversation is mainly about your evaluation and retention, not recognising that who you, bring in how you train them leads to their future performance and so that this connect. I think remains like a huge huge problem and there's no incentive for schools have had to change, and that's why Levin decided to help start a new kind of graduate school to educate teachers really graduate school education. I was one of the co founders, along with Norman actions and Digital Norman actions from come in schools and data toll from achieving first, and we basically felt that there was a discussion.
between the way our teachers were getting trained in the grand schools around New York City and New Jersey, Connecticut and their performance in the classroom. and so what we thought is that you could a more productive union between theory and practice, and that you could have people teaching teachers who are still connected to students either as teachers or as principles, and why, started in New York has now grown. New Jersey in New Orleans in Houston. It is two years she's programme, where the role of teachers need to show student proficiency in order to, who earn their masters Gimme some specifics on that day, what kind of efficiency today need to show, and how does it differ from the standard at school? So honest,
at school there. You don't need to show any proficiency by and large year, your masters defence might include retina paper or delivering a project. Now this is changing in real time, so their arms. This is now where to get a master, you do need to start demonstrating the applicability of that in a classroom, but For us, it is a variety of measures that here's canoes aside, if you teach thirdly, eighth grade in New York, for example, you can use the state task and you can use your value added demonstrate their kids have many years. Whether progress, if you teach k to you, could use the step assessment were found. The simple now, but either way there has to be some damn tradable way that you ve shown suiting growth and for folks who teach others. Subject such as the Humanities Sciences, are of what they do. The outline how they are going to show that growth at the beginning. Their second year, and then that progress is measured and and
Doesn't you know how different the very existence is, the difference the role of education in schools, also came up and actual Klein former New York Schools, Chancellor about building a better time, they ve got, have demanding criteria. They ve got to support, rigorously climate change at a profession, whether to equivalent some form of nice, jam state by state example. There really test on the range of skills in Tanzania, but Klein sees other flaws in the teacher system. Besides, the at schools within gotta, move away from a trade union model which is built on these three pillars of ten years seniority unlocks the p professional, mandala, rewards excellence and supports greatness,
I think I would say, Stephen in terms of a solution in this kind of maybe he's good tie with my old antitrust days, and that is, I think, the more choices we give families the better be whether those charged school choices or traditional public school choices. What I mean by that is Nobody is a you know, and I spent most people listening today have exercise choice of schools for their kids. They to a neighborhood, if any one lived, there was good public school summit. We're going to private schools, but they haven't just. We said well, whatever the neighbourhood schoolers, I'm gonna go there, what they ve done, his patient shit, I'm gonna move or go to private school in order to get a good education for my chump change with the least resources in America. It sure not getting any choices, it's one and done for them. to me if we can create the kind of choices you now see, for example in Harlem, which We created major global leadership, were now been
there are lots and lots of options, and parents have increasingly become informed consumers. Those old anti trust days at Klein mentioned he used to work for the Department of Justice. He was a lead prosecutor in United States, verses Microsoft corporation now Bill gates was not very fond of you at the time was he. it is fair to say you are you're not on it's Christmas card list at the time and honest Christmas current list and not a lot of invites to Seattle, Washington to me, and you guys, however, did kiss and make up at some point will build a job credit for it before I started as chancellor and European, given a ten million dollar philanthropic contribution to established small high schools for highly dysfunctional large high schools in high poverty. Communities in question was whether he would stick in
After I was appointed He did and became the large, contributed to New York City schools in terms of literally one over half a million dollars or go to my tenure a lot. Which went into this new small schools initiative, which one breaking down these large face, schools and high poverty communities that have to three thousand kids, replacing them with four or five. six smaller schools without, lot of community support and partnerships and much. demanding requirements, results that have been just phenomenal did you ever talked him what it was like for him to Learn that you know here, he was with the Gates Foundation, giving money to a lot of different schools and school systems, including New York, than to find out that you, his bed and war was the guy who is coming in to run the New York City schools. Did you have that conversation with him ever
did I was just so grateful that he was willing to supporters the Jew It was out on this and then we had an event I'll, never forget this invent I hadn't seen were spoken avail since after the case this is about a three year. I ate it and he came to the rocks. school Mars Highschool up there were open asian small schools and he- and I spent- it again. I don't know what it's like: a loser: very well. Engaging do and went to clash from Sudan and owing to the public appearance with May of lumber and in it, though, made some glancing jokes about the Anti trust you and so forth and happy to be on the same team. I want to offer a scientist so relieved that gun so well and as I walked off the podium principle, came doing so. You know, chancellor, said vulgate scale fifty one million dollars today. That's a nice day Swordfishes, but just think what he would have given you. If you hadn't suit.
let's be honest, all the gates nation grants in the world. Although school reform and teacher reform in the world what necessarily solved the problem- There is a mountain of recent evidence, suggesting in fact, the teachers skill has less influence on a student's performance in a completely different set of factors like how much kids have learned from their parents, how hard they work at home and whether the parents have instilled an appetite for. nation. In other words, you can perform the supply side of the schools equation. All you want. What about the demand side, students and their families Have you come from a family inspires kids, learn its demanding about a child's homewards touch enormously helpful and viable, but I would like to all those things somewhat country, because the people education. Business are not going to be able to change.
in Germany. We often use jokingly, say you know: parents gave us rescues that they have the first. Guided by the same token, kids come with the best perished. again we have to They all think about it. A school has your kid from IE seven hours a day hundred eighty days a year for about twenty two percent of the kids waking hours, nor is that time about learning. Once you count for socializing, eating in getting to and from class and for many kids, the first three or four years of life is all parents and no school. But when serious people talk about education reform they rarely talk about the families role in preparing children to succeed. That may be because the very words education reform, indicate that the underlying question is what's wrong with our schools, which,
His days inevitably leads to what's wrong with our teachers, which is a relevant question. Plainly, not the only question and so we're going to keep this conversation going on a next episode, it's about a programme in Toronto called pathways to patient the pathways programme has four pillars: our counselling, academic, social and financial, in other words, its a program that helps didn't succeed in school by helping them with everything. family is supposed to be helping them with, but we too often present its next time on for economics. Radio thanks for listening economics, radio is produced by W and Y see and debonair productions. Our staff includes David Herman, Regular Zawoiski, Caroline English, so
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-12.