Friday, February 20, 2009

TED: Bill Gates has a Great Idea

TED Talk: Bill Gates on how he is trying to change the world.
It's malaria first, education at the 8:12 mark
"How do you make a teacher great?"

Some things that I heard:
If you're low income, you have a better chance of going to jail than getting a four-year college degree.
Gee, Bill. If you're low income, you'll be spending your money on living rather than a college. There's probably a better chance of pretty much anything for these folks, compared to college. How about %Married by 25 vs % who got a four-year degree by 25? How about the percentage of low income people with 4 years of work experience at age 22 vs percentage of high income people with a 4-year degree by 22? But that wouldn't be as sensational, would it?
Top quartile teachers will increase performance of their class by 10% per year. If all teachers were top quartile teachers, the difference between US and Asia would be gone.
Interesting idea. Makes you wonder why we don't do it? Is it innate ability and thus unsolvable or is it the students?
Percentage gain compared to the average teacher, indicator
9%, Past performance; After 3 years teaching quality stagnates
2%, Teacher having a math major
1%, Teach For America Grad
0%, Master's Degree.
I have to think that last is because so many get a M.Ed, which is worthless.
On average, slightly better teachers leave. High turnover is a problem.
Yep. Partly because we're tired of having well-meaning dilettantes convincing our principals to change the way everything is taught. More importantly, statistically speaking, which type of teacher is more likely to leave? The better and smarter one with more experience and more ability to land a better job than teaching, or the loser who can't even figure out how to run a SmartBoard and isn't quite sure how to add without a calculator? Meaningless statistic, Bill.
Charter schools - KIPP are where the great teachers are being made. and 96% of graduates go to colleges.
Bill, Bill, Bill.
This statistic is just plain silly. You are comparing a selected and filtered group with a random group. Read here for more. Your results are meaningless. Undaunted, Bill starts a paeon to KIPP:
Constantly improving - test scores - deeply engaged. Bill is impressed by teacher running around the room (as if athleticism and the habits of a small neurotic dog are what makes a good teacher). Constantly scanning. Rapid, dynamic environment. Keeping people engaged.
And then, the key line, but Bill doesn't recognize it: "Nobody is the kid who doesn't want to be there." Because THEY'VE TOSSED OUT THE BAD APPLES AND THE UNDER-PERFORMING, Bill. When you do that, of course the school looks better.

I'll give him his next points on data: In a normal school, no data gathered. No teacher observation or once a year and has to be forewarned. Nobody can be evaluated, even if they want, on test scores. It isn't a valid point. Just because you don't explicitly measure something doesn't mean it's substandard.

Then I had to laugh.

Bill wants teachers to be recorded every period/every day. Then teachers sit down and discuss their performances. ( Forget the Orwellian nature of this - constant supervision is no path to improvement. Besides, I've got enough to do - I don't have the time to be "improving" my fellow teachers. )

So here's the best part: Bill wants to take the very best teachers and make the video available as free courses for students and parents and everybody. The excuse is for makeup work and missed classes, but that's not where is would end - gradually it would become the course itself.

So the guy who developed a complete corporate entity (SBA) to combat piracy, who wants to be paid for every copy of his software, whose license agreements include the idea that you don't own software you paid for and who wants to put limitations on how many of your own computers you can install Office on. And then screws around with the file formats to force you to re-purchase every 2-3 years ...

This guy wants to record and publish what I do, for free. For use in perpetuity.


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