Wednesday, August 3, 2011



I had incredible teachers. As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself — my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity — all come from how I was parented and taught.
And none of these qualities that I’ve just mentioned — none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success — none of these qualities that make me who I am ... can be tested.

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Clearly the correct balance to be struck between freedom for teachers and external accountability is a tough one. We don't know how to apply the correct incentives. Which is why the answer can only be testing - testing the tests - which brings me to New York Mayor Bloomberg's use of RCTs to test out 2 promising education initiatives in the city - conditional cash transfers and cash incentives for teachers. 
Both programs cost $50 million each. Neither worked, and so both schemes were promptly scrapped. Bloomberg deserves a medal (the Tim Harford award for experiments in social policy?).  
He just saved $50 million a year (or $100 million, if both schemes were to be run concurrently), on a program that makes plenty of intuitive sense, but that without proper testing could have gone on for years, with nobody knowing that it wasn't having any effect at all. 
How many other pieces of the education system are doing nothing?

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from New York's MAYOR BLOOMBERG:

I think those things we should be more proud of -- the fact that we have the courage to sit there and say we thought it was a good idea, didn't work and we're stopping it. We're not going to waste the public's money.
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Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire.
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To the extent that we are all educated and informed, we will be more equipped to deal with the gut issues that tend to divide us.

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