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[ftf] Joel Klein

Joel Klein, former Chancellor of NYC Schools and now with News Corp.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

He begins by noting that he doesn’t think an innate desire to learn drives us all to everything we need to learn. He had no interest in physics until a great teacher got him interested.

He says K-12 is broken. It’s broken for yesterday’s challenges, and certainly for tomorrow’s. The US is getting a porr return on its education investment. From 1970 until now, we have 60% more teachers in the US. But scores on reading, math, and science are flat lines. Any business would shut this down. Only 35% of students leave HS ready for college. Internationally, we are way at the bottom, including countries that spend way less than us. He recommends we read The Race Between Education and Technology. We are not producing enough students qualified for the work force. How can develop a disruptive delivery system that will get the kids the skills they need?

The system now is designed entirely wrong. It’s top down. The Chancellor decides on class size, e.g. Why can’t the schools decide that? There’s accountability at the top: You dance to the tune of the politicians and the unions. The worst part of his job was, he says, to be in an environment that did not constantly strive for excellence and that did not embrace innovation. So, he built it on local accountability: every school got a letter grade so that parents would be disruptive. The grades were based on where they were. He shut down 100 schools out of 1200. He opened up 400 competition-driven HS’s + 100 new charter schools. Seniority, lifetime benefits, lockstep pay all work against excellence. He created innovation zones. This has resulted in higher scores. (He gives an example: He came across a student who was texting his tutor in Mumbai who was more focused on him than was his local teacher.)

From his slide:

  • Schools must become intelligent, data driven and accountable.

  • Contents must be digitized, highly engaging, accessible, and flexible. Games work, for e.g.

  • Learning by extend beyond the classroom.

  • Education must be highly customized. Change the ways, the pace, the differentiation. Not diff content for every kid.

  • Human capital must be dramatically redefined. In the past we’ve bet on the quantity, not the quality of people. Instead we should find where the most effective changes would be.

He ends by citing a WSJ article calling for a move away from the manufacturing model, that could lead to having half as many educators (!), smaller schools, higher graduation rates, and test scores.

Q: Spain’s scores are lower, but there is less of a sense of urgency.

Q: I agree with your solutions, but I analyze the problems differently. The US health care system is actually performing worse than schools, but we don’t use the rhetoric of shutting it down. The causes are underlying poverty, etc.
Q: In Britain, the best marks come from Chinese students on school lunch programs, so the argument from poverty is weak.
Joel: NY and Boston poor kids are way ahead of the same in Detroit and LA. It’s not poverty. It’s education. I talk about shutting things down because we have a monopoly provider. Nobody would agree to placing their kid randomly in a NYC school; everyone wants choice. It’s the poor who don’t have it.
– The real issue is fairness.
– The skills divide is going to kill us.

Q: Three massive, broken industries are heavily unionized. How much of the massive failure of the ed system is due to the unions?
A: There’s no doubt that that’s an important part of it. Monopoly providers are self-interested. A choice model would protect people.

Q: It’s not just the unions but the broader mass-production system. Higher ed is highly competitive, but lives within rigid, top-down, hierarchical systems. It’s not poverty but the infrastructure of mass systems.

Q: In the next sessions, how can we look for political will without a leader?
A: A long discussion over drinks…

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