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Friday, December 12, 2014

What's Broken? America's Schools or its Students?

Much ink has been spilled on what is wrong with America's schools and what should be done about it. There seem to be a lot of good ideas out there, but it's hard to know which ones will work and which ones already have. Some people recommend fixes focus on the recruiting and training of teachers. Others focus on how to improve the communities in which students live.

Two recent Freakonomics episodes explore America's education system: "Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?" and "How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps." In the first you'll hear from Joel Klein, the former New York City schools chancellor (and head of the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Antitrust Division) who now runs Amplify, a News Corp education-technology startup; David Levin, a former teacher who co-founded, with Mike Feinberg, KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program; John Friedman, an economist who works on public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School; and Dana Goldstein, author of The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession. The second features a program called Pathways to Education, which came out of a community health center in a housing project in Toronto that reduced the dropout rate among high schoolers from 56% to 10%. Both episodes are interesting but one comes away with the sense that there are no easy fixes.

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