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Random Thoughts About Education Reform

With my TEDxPeachtree event having taken place on November 4th, I have neglected my blog, I'm afraid.


I have used the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday to keep a file of articles that have piqued my interest and were worthy of future blog posts.  Today I'm going to list a few of them and offer some brief thoughts about why they intrigued me.

1.  NYT Article from 9/14/11 titled, "What if the Secret to Success is Failure?"   - this article really worries me.   As someone who does not support standardized testing, should we really consider developing standardized "character tests"?  While I believe that character development is essential, particularly in underserved communities, why do we feel we have to quantify this into a formal assessment? Besides, I don't believe you can quantify character regardless of what esteemed Penn Psychology Professor Marty Seligman thinks!   The old saying, "if we can measure it, we can do it faster," was for the Industrial Age, not the 21st Century!  Take Seth Godin, author of Linchpin, who has a very unique read on schools:

Schools need shortcuts in order to successfully process millions of students a year, and they've discovered that fear is a great shortcut on the way to teaching compliance.  Classrooms become fear-based, test-based battlefields, when they could so easily be organized to encourage the heretical thought we so badly need. Drill and practice and fear, are powerful tools for teaching facts and figures and obedience.

2.  The Heritage Foundation's controversial study that concluded that public school teachers are overpaid, and then Rick Hess's risky attempt to soften the blow.  This study ranks up there with HBS Professor Roland Fryer's research about bribing kids to improve school achievement.   I just cannot fathom why people would be paid to try and implement such an incredibly flawed project.  Teachers are, if anything, underpaid, period.   As in any industry, there are overpaid and underpaid workers.  The problem in education is NOT overpaid teachers; rather, the problem is more about how teachers are trained, educated and evaluated, not to mention the dysfunctional system which is completely unrelated to teacher compensation.   As a society, we need to create a teaching culture where the top graduates are incentivized, and motivated, to join the teaching ranks.  Why does this culture exist in the developing world, but NOT in the United States?   Mr. Hess can try and justify the study any way he desires, but, with all due respect, he's dead wrong on this one.  And this is one rare situation where I applaud Secretary Duncan for chiming into the debate.

3. A fascinating post about why education startups do not succeed.  It's a post worth reading, and here are the key takeways:

  • Most entrepreneurs in education build the wrong type of business, because entrepreneurs think of education as a quality problem. The average person thinks of it as a cost problem.
  • Building in education does not follow an Internet company’s growth curve. Do it because you want to fix problems in education for the next 20 years.
  • There are opportunities in education in servicing the poor in the US and building a company in Asia — not in selling to the middle class in the US.
  • The underlying culture will change and expose interesting opportunities in the long term, but probably not for another 5 years.

As someone who had a failed education startup at the onset of the economic collapse three years ago, I find some of his points quite valid.

I'll have a few more random thoughts soon, but hopefully these trigger some conversation.



Reader Comments (1)

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December 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterOnline High School Diploma

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