In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, we explore a way to make 1.1 million schoolkids feel like they have 1.1 million teachers.
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have you, like God, get smart, you anything, but this down you ve been there it's impossible to find a decent song on the radio and when you do- and it ends the next songs
now when it be nice. If the radio only played the songs, you want to hear the rest, the world as it figured out Amazon. Does it Netflix? Does it your airline? Does it even your credit card company just go by some baby diapers see how long it takes for someone males you a prospectus for college savings plan. If your personal data is like a your print and you ve left big greasy smudges all over the universe. The key is an algorithm, a formula to harness that day, and customize the world for you to give you the things you need to make. You smarter, richer, happy to give you only the songs you wanna sing, actually a solution that radio problem and it so easy, even Steve Levitt- can use it about three years ago, on our blog and the blog, I admitted
people that I'm a luddite and then I don't know any by technology, and I asked her blog readers to tell me what cutting edge technologies I said adopt. In my life we are lost a lot of suggestions and think the only one that stuck with me was Pandora level, my co author and economists at university Chicago, and it was absolutely stunning to me that there is a technology where you could tell the music like and then it would play other music you would never heard of but would like, and I would do it all for free and if you didn't like a song, you say don't play that song ever again and it would just go away and what an incredible invention that with now doing it today if you were never gotten on pandora near distorting today, what's a song that you would say God this is the song I love and I will,
a hundred more like it, but I don't know where to find him. What's the song put into day. So if I had to putting this on today, I would put in a very obscure song by a group called igloo and hardly called in this case that a start things off will play a song that exemplifies the musical style Blue and hardly which features basic rocks on structures, colony, answer, vocal harmony, Alzheimer's and Tiffany major key tonality and vocal centric, aesthetic and acoustic rhythm guitar. So that's what you like! So I love you. I love of those things so the next time someone asked you Steve Lever, ok, music. You, like, I will say again Tiffany
Today, on pre economics, radio, the thrill of customization and a question: what does a ban radio station have in common with the public school system. Here's your house Stevens, city, mid city. Imagine you fell asleep one hundred and fifty years ago and woke up today. There aren't many things. You'd recognize. One of them is a classroom, one teacher in a box with twenty five students and why hasn't changed? My name is John Fine and I'm the chancellor of the New York City, public school system, an approach
fly. Fi used to represent the American Psychiatric Association and it was during the euro, which do a lot of lightbulb jokes and most of these, your people- probably too young to remember this year, but my favorite lightbulb joke ever was how many psychiatrists to take to change a light bulb. Any answer is only one, but the lifeboat really has to want to change and the answer to your question is this this system does not want to change. It wants more resources. Grades are up, graduation rates are, but when look across the board in New York City. When you look at the absolute number is not relative to where they were, but absolute, you can't be too happy. I regret your graduating that fifty nine percent of students announce that still about ten percent below nationally urgent, I hope I'm right on that. So what's the problem are New York, city, kids, dumb? Are the teachers who come here not good enough?
There's a lot of questions here. So let me start with, for example, on a graduation rates is if you can't August graduates, which I think we should tower at sixty three points. still below where we need to be, but, quite frankly, as for years alone, had gone up about three point: two year nets, you'd no other city, I think, has seen that kind of gain, but in the end two things, one ass, we and look at America generally in America generally as she said about seventy percent graduate high school, so thirty percent on graduate Highschool added to seven percent of graduate, probably thirty. Thirty five percent of them are not prepared for college. So, what's the point The problem is not only in New York City, of course, the national drop out rate has been declining, but still nearly three at ten kids never finish high school, test scores have essentially been flat for a couple decades. Other countries passing us by, I asked Arnie Duncan the: U S Secretary of Education,
how big a concern these numbers are. This is a huge deal. Steve were very sign that, if we're going to remain economically competitive as a country, if we're gonna give our children a chance to compete in a global economy, we have to dramatically improve the quality of education. All of us, as students want to be treated as individuals and with her this sort of factory model of education in which every one was treated the same in the teachers. Did you remember the flip side that the best each other once it? absolutely understand? Who you are? Who find skills and you and in a Billy's at union, realize you have yourself and teachers where it doesn't work of teachers that
are just relating to a massive faced in front of the dont know, use an individual. You get the sense of accurate, not that they don't really care about you quite frankly. So that's how a classroom is like the radio, a factory model, a big fat effort to pitch right down the middle, but things are changing in schools. I mean people been talking about education reform forever, but lately things really are changing as a proliferation of charter schools, some of them excellent, the teach for America Pro M parenting workshops in pre school programmes in New York City, there's, a small band of reformers, pushing a gutsy programme with a catchy name: it's called school of one they wanted dump the factory model altogether Secretary Duncan is wild school of one Joel Klein's, the man who gave the go ahead, here's a programmes founder Joel rose so in New York City, even before
the recession, we had six applicants for every teacher that we hired. We have worked credibly hard to ensure that our highest performing teachers are rewarded for the work that they do and we can tell your honour on a relative basis who are stronger teachers are and who are weaker. Teachers are One of the things that I was interested in is looking at that information on an objective basis. In other words, if we picked a particular standard like what percentage of eighth grade math teachers in New York City get eighty percent of their students to proficiency by the end of the year. That number came in at thirteen percent thirteen percent right and when we asked the question a little differently. One per cent of eighth grade math teachers can get one years worth of growth out of eighty four
entered the students in the class that came in at twelve percent yanks about reading in reading. The numbers are by half that half that right now we have some incredibly talented and hard working teachers in New York City, and there are thousands of students who graduate college that with love to move to the city and work here. This is this is not an issue of recruitment or even of talent. It's an issue of design and then, if you think about any other industry, if we created an objective standard of success and only thirteen percent of a particular classification of employ was successful, we would change the job. we have never had a conversation in education, so you're saying that if, if plumbers or if I t designers,
or engineers are writers or president's performed at the level of the objective level that New York City teachers did we'd, either get rid of all of em or radically change. A jam if we set the bar at how successful do we need plumbers to be in that it is. There is a reasonable objective standard, and only thirteen percent of plumbers can actually hit that standard. Then we have to think that lay about how are organizing the work of plumbing. How should the work of teaching be organised rose started out as a classroom teacher three years and a fifth grade in Houston. Through teach her America, he went to law school then got back into education with Edison learning before profits what company, eventually he landed in New York City Department of Education? That's when he had a revelation, even the most
talented teachers in New York, were operating in the old twenty five kids in a box factory mode, How well can one person possibly teach math to twenty five different brains at the same time? so I'm originally from South Florida and I was visiting my family in Miami and went to go see a friend who runs something called a new horizons learning centre? This is a franchise that provides technical training to people in a particular area of technology. So if you want to get certify you have something from Microsoft or Cisco or something like that, you go to one of these centres, you take a clash, you take a test, you get a certificate and you can use that to get a job and so I went to meet him for lunch and I walk in two to the office and there's a big sign right when you walk an end. It says: choose your modality
who's your modality how's your modem, and what's that mean that a student can choose to come, take live instruction from a teacher. They can chew is to learn at their own pace at home. Online They can do what new horizons calls men towards learning, which is a student come in whenever they like, and there is a teaching assistance. I person that can help them as they work through the software, so I can eat in take out or have delivery food exactly and did you did a gigantic light bulbs chef in your head, a gigantic labour flash in my head What a immediately saw when I saw that sign was that is what we ve been looking for in case of education, the introduction of other modalities but live
sure led instruction, the kind of instruction were all familiar with that we all grew up with is one way it may be the best way, but it's not the only way. The kids learn
down. This is for economic, radio. Here's your host, Stephen Dampener, so Joel rose, thought what if, instead of all twenty five kids in a classroom trying to learn math from one teacher in one. modality at a time what, if you could take the classroom I did in the smaller groups and have each kid get her own playlists of different modalities. Every day kind like the playlists. That Pandora makes for Steve Levitt with Klein's blessing school of one quickly moved into pilot phase, this spring its being used as an after school programming
The New York City, schools, teaching sixth grade math, two two hundred and seventy students. Let's go to one of these schools. I have three thirty, nine in the Bronx, here's Kirsten shy from smooth one. So what we see here on the screens, the worst thing when it still locks and if their schedule for the day there are now trust period, one like kids are divided up by their their home teams and they can see which states air there's going to be so at the table there doing my virtual tutoring at the far table over there, there's kids who are working. A variety of different online programmes and this closer table, there's kids were working on independent. This is another modality that we have a new quickly name all the modalities. For me to quit me large, live instructions. Small live instruction, virtual live instruction, which we call virtual tutoring colloquially, independent practice. Small group collaboration,
eyes independent virtual insertion, so these guys are getting these hazards in math homework with headphones at a computer somebody another line and who is that person in what they teach the ETA Online is a virtual tutor, not sure exactly where they are presently in the United States are now and their working on the individual skills that they need to be working on. So it could be a number of feathers, scrape Moscow kidneys at that time, I'm told utilities work he Tyler and he never went to any real number? at the recent any number.
we must avoid any number of small group instruction, independent practice, a virtual tudor. It's not what these their use to here's Petronia Hudson, twelve years old, I was failing mass because I don't understand it. Nobody help like I said now me help me make work like my teacher. Her name is Miss Maketh and, if you ask them for Health Lake I think that we have to do it on our own. Try to figure it out is now it's not a problem of judgment like once and if you don't understand it, show quit belief or give up to bed my name's not known on eleven line,
What are you doing here in school? One path: now: what the kids, who are in class in math who don't come to school. One. Do you feel like you, russian pass them? Yes, learning a lot more. But they leaning, evolving. don't play video games. every lesson: every quiz, every keystroke, it's all fed into the school of one algorithm at the end of every day. Each kid takes a test. Now the algorithm can learn what the kid learn today, which lessons stuck, which topics need more attention, how each kid learns the best. Every day as the kid gets little smarter. The algorithm does too far from eyes three thirty, nine in the Bronx, all lay down and lower Manhattan. The old tweed courthouse, the scheme, We have one team, sits in a big open room. There are laptops weight,
words on wheels, an Ipad that everybody has been testing out smudged with a million fingerprints. Chris rush is a co founder of the project If Joel rose is the education theory guy for school. One rush is the text savant in some ways he's the algorithm he's sitting in front of two computers. So what I'm doing is I'm looking at the results from the entire week and I have we hear that has every student and has every skill that they could be learning skills such as adding fractions or circumference of a circle. I can see how many times I may lessons they ve had on each skill. I can see how faster more
through those skills. So what I'm monitoring is? I'm looking for skills were kids are getting stuck so that we can target those to improve the programme round. Adding fractions are so comments of a circle, and I can also make sure that any kids that are getting stuck get the proper attention they need. So I tell you how fast kids are moving through the skills and we give them a rating sort of like par engulf, so if their beating par the average or if there are head of it- and we take the kids that are falling behind and we say what's happening here, how can we do something better for them and upgrade our algorithms pull them out to make sure they're getting the proper attention? Ok, so we talk to a pretty enthusiastic boy named Lionel. Who was happy to be in the programme was so happy that he was telling his friends they should stop going home after school and playing video games and instead come here and play math computer games. He said
successfully, crowded recruited one or two kids. So, let's look at Lionel. Tell us some what he's been doing, how he's doing what direction is moving in ok song in a poor blind here and what I really see liners one of those great case studies. Actually, the nice story about liners at liner was really struggling in the month of March. He was taking him ten exposures, twelve exposures, to learn certain scales, and now I'm moving through things with two exposures. Three exposures, that's really exciting! That's what we want to see not just learning the skills but he's learning how to learn skills faster. We have one school here, that's on hold cause line on these to come back to it and that's dealing with this particular scale have, as we do with Algeria, expressions and that seems to us he's having more trouble words Yama tree to be something that is doing much better and
Oh, what do you do that information, whereas at steer you to steer him to help steer him so we'd? Look a little more closely is a GM material that is doing well, where there is the way that we are teaching him geometry, and in this particular case it actually looks like we were teaching him geometry a bit differently than we are treating, treat teaching him how to deal with algebra expression. So the first thing we do is try to take the the methods that we taught him geometry and apply them to him learning algebraic expressions. So the idea I'm guessing is it. You will find out what approach works best for each kid and that you will end up with a manageable mix, because if everybody needs the alive teacher instruction than your back to twenty, eight kids in a boxer correct its very much like
the Pandora Music Service online, where you enter a song name or an hour or an artist, and it tries to guess the next best thing for you, and maybe a guess is right, the first time, but by the two or three songs in basically, it works the same way here. If a student try small group collaboration- and they don't do well that day, we give that a thumbs down if they do smuggler collaboration and they do well, we give it a thumbs up. So we can rate are schedules everyday freed students who we get smarter and smarter and choosing the next day schedule for each do. ok, Jim, so you ve. Let me hijack year, Pandora Council, I'm we're listening to be pandora. Account of the Pandora guy and and were on been folds radio. That's your station here, that's the heart of my genome is that right. sixth day after Christmas
yes, Carson, raised. some of them, around the founder of Andorra. In how popular are you able to lower million listeners in the- U S, fifty million listeners. What's a list. Fifty that's! Whenever six human beings in the United States. That's right! It's growing like a weed wow, so more people Our pandora listeners then, are, let's say, users of Reynolds RAP, probably for the first correlation. I would have thought of that, may be true. You know! Yet what we have fifty million people who read it turn create stations that translates into a little bit, nor the twenty million people come each.
So it's not a four. Fifty million every day now keep that still allow Reynolds RAP, yeah yeah. So what pandora does You customize a radio station for anyone who asks you or as many radio stations as they want. So do you feel a bit lake. we have entered a new world were essentially everything is customizable, yeah think! That's basically true. I think it. What the web did at first was made. Everything available now was kind of the first phase I think of the web, and the second phase is the kind of repair that and make all that stuff that's set of so voluminous, actually navigable and- and I think that's where Pandora sets. No, we look at music and say you ve got this, had a tyranny of choice on the web site, walking to a record store, and you got eighty thousand cities to choose from you need to figure out where to start we're trying to do that with music and and the music gene.
Projects so that its purpose is to make that easy for someone, our public schools are longing for a tyranny of choice, the misery that comes from having too many options. all have won the answer right now. It's just an experiment. If it were it'll, go into more New York City schools and if it works really well, maybe it'll spread further maybe at all even be a big money maker for New York, exporting customized education around countries around the world. Now, if and when education is customized there'll, be fortunes made and may be lost, there'll be competition among techniques, gee, vendors and content providers and a million others there'll be turf wars with teachers, unions. Already Joel Klein is said. He wants to cut the number of teachers in New York City by thirty percent and pay teachers- thirty percent more, but we
Full of one require fewer teachers or maybe more less money or more Joel rose says it's simply too early to know that what we do know is that a future with something like school of one will be different, very different technology. instead of being discouraged in schools, would move to the head of the class teachers would have to be trained differently. Here's Blair Heizer the Math Department chair at I S, three, thirty, nine. In the teeth School of one, the fear of school vanish, just like student make it last, given that there isn't that traditional twenty five kids, one teacher that teacher works with those students every day, and so I think that's the one hesitation or fears it's different, its new, it's something that hasn't really happened before and that
you know as a teacher furious it? You ve taught fifteen years twenty years and one way it's very challenging, and you know what kind of think outside the box in terms of your instruction already Duncan, the Secretary of Education thinks that most of us happened in the past, isn't worth hanging onto. I think our department of Education has been partly problem. Historical I've been very odd about that in his heart were pushing everybody else. To move out it occurs on do more. I promise you were trying to be very self critical, look, look ourselves and mere every single day and historically we ve been this compliance driven, big bureaucracy, and we are fundamentally change what we do from Venus Bay prophecy to being his engine of innovation. scaling up what works so far. The school of one numbers look good. Here's Joel rose before the programme began. Every student took a protest that was a line to the skills on their playlist, the average gross forty two percent, the under the programme. Roughly fifty,
sixty hours of instruction later it took a post test on the same skills, poster scores, average. Seventy percent. We asked to do a research and policy team. Is that good, but not good? How do we contextualize that they did an analysis and found that these games were depending on what we consider a control? Four hundred and twenty eight x, the games? We would see in traditional schools in roughly a third of the time, but who excited alot of experiments that great in the LAB New York City. As one point, one million schoolchildren can they really be bought one at a time an algorithm. A playlist really help teachers do their jobs better in Canada, algorithm, really help a kid like y know, find his own music. The odd seem long just think how long the odds must seem ten years ago,
wailing around that radio, dire, hoping to find just the right song. Have you heard from anyone for whom and DORA really change the shape of their life in some way. Maybe it resulted in a court ship in a marriage we had someone who's on whose father was ill or was it was it was aging and was in a home kind of each and end of his life and in the last few months they discovered pandora an end. They shared it with him and he really took to it, and so, when they visited day. You would you listen a pandora all day long and it became, can overrule companion and eventually passed away, be passed away, listening to Pandora and because When you die you you're you're, given a time of death the family- I am. I wrote us to thank us, an untold told us, the time of death and we actually wrote them and tell them
song was playing when he died and we we sent them a city, and they played that song at his funeral. yeah, This but so too frequent comics radio was produced by Stephen Davenant, with Amy Machado subscribe to this path cast on Itunes, and the next episode will end up automatically on your playlist gotta friggin. Stay calm, to read more about the hidden side of everything
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-19.