Nov 272014
 

We’ve all heard the depressing numbers: when compared to kids from other rich countries, U.S. students aren’t doing very well, especially in math, even though we spend more money per student than most other countries. So is the problem here as simple as adding two plus two? Is the problem here that our students aren’t getting very bright simply because … our teachers aren’t very bright?

That’s the question we ask in our latest Freakonomics Radio episode. It’s called “Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?”

 

 

Transcript:

JOEL KLEIN: I read somebody said it’s as hard to get into an ed. school in Finland as it is to get into MIT.
DUBNER: That’s Joel Klein; he knows a little bit about schools, and education, and education schools:
KLEIN: I’m now the CEO of Amplify, which is an education technology company started by News Corp. Before that for a little over eight years, I was the schools chancellor in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
DUBNER: Klein has rolled his education experience into a new book called Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools. That bit he mentioned about ed. schools in Finland? He was citing Amanda Ripley, who wrote a book called The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way.
Amanda RIPLEY: To get into education college in Finland is like getting into MIT in the United States. And imagine what could follow if that were true here.
DUBNER: Imagine what could follow if that were true here.
KLEIN: …they’ve created a set of expectations, brought people into the field, and there’s nothing like self-fulfilling prophecy.
DUBNER: But it’s not that hard to get into an education school in the U.S.; and not that hard to become a school teacher. As a result, U.S. teachers are – well:
Dana GOLDSTEIN: They’re just a little bit below average.
DUBNER: That’s Dana Goldstein. She’s written a book called The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.
GOLDSTEIN: And that is unusual compared to a lot of the nations that we compare ourselves to, whether it’s Japan or South Korea, or Finland. You often hear in Finland as a comparison that the typical public-school teacher graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
KLEIN: We’re taking more and more people from the bottom half or even the bottom third of their college graduating class. And that’s always seemed to me to be a big mistake.
DUBNER: We’ve all heard the depressing numbers: when compared to kids from other rich countries, U.S. students are also a little bit below average, especially in math, even though we spend more money per student than most other countries. So is the problem here as simple as adding two plus two? And getting four. Is the problem here that our students aren’t getting very bright in school simply because … our teachers aren’t very bright?

 

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