A continuation of the TWO MILLION MINUTES documentary film, this blog offers deeper insights into education in China, India and the United States, and the challenge America faces. Now you can join a dialog about what governments, communities and families should and are doing to best prepare US students for satisfying careers in the 21st century.
M.I.T. students have a tradition of "hacks" - brilliant, surprising engineering feats - carried out each spring. To the dismay of MIT's administration, these hacks often involve campus property.
This year was no exception, as MIT students turned a campus science building into a giant game of Tetris.
What goes on in the classroom is certainly important, but student's creativity is often best sparked by doing something they aren't supposed to do - perhaps having to ask for forgiveness - but which fires their imagination.
The "skills" students learn in a hack are the ones that will serve them best in life - imagining the impossible, working as a team, communicating with colleagues, taking the initiative, experimenting and solving problems.
The Imperiled Promise of College New York Times By FRANK BRUNI
For a long time and for a lot of us, “college” was more or less a synonym for success. We had only to go. We had only to graduate.
And if we did, according to parents and high-school guidance counselors, we could pretty much count on a career, just about depend on a decent income and more or less expect security. A diploma wasn’t a piece of paper. It was an amulet.
And it was broadly accessible, or at least it was spoken of that way. With the right mix of intelligence, moxie and various kinds of aid, a motivated person could supposedly get there. College was seen as a glittering centerpiece of the American dream, a reliable engine of social mobility.
Because of levitating costs, college these days is a luxury item. What’s more, it’s a luxury item with newly uncertain returns.
According to an AP analysis of data from 2011:
-> 53.6 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 were unemployed or, if they were lucky, merely underemployed, which means they were in jobs for which their degrees weren’t necessary.
“Thirty years ago, the U.S. led the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with the equivalent of at least a two-year degree; only Canada and Israel were close.
As of 2009, the U.S. lagged behind 14 other developed countries.”
That situation isn’t helped by the cost of higher education, which has escalated wildly over the last three decades and has left too many students with crippling Everests of debt.
Today, students who are facing “an incredibly tough job market” need to know “how their particular program will stack up and what kind of debt they’re going to rack up.”
That you can’t gain a competitive edge with just any diploma from just any college is reflected in the ferociousness of the race to get into elite universities. It’s madness out there.
Tiger Mom's and $125-an-hour tutors proliferate, and parents scrimp and struggle to pay up to $40,000 a year in tuition to private secondary schools that then put them on the spot for supplemental donations, lest the soccer field turn brown and the Latin club languish.
The two Americas are evident in education as perhaps nowhere else. And even among the gilded elite, career success and life happiness are far from guaranteed by a diploma.
Few entrepreneurs, scientists or engineers are more passionately engaged, or more personally involved, in motivating the next generation to understand, use and enjoy science and technology.
Inventor Dean Kamen he holds more than 440 patents. Best know as the inventor of the Segway, he also pioneered products ranging from insulin pumps, to dialysis treatments, to therapies for treating T-Cell lymphoma.
As importantly, Kamen has been a tireless advocate for science and technology education. In 1989, he founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).
Through hands-on application -- building robots that compete in complex tournaments - kids learn that science and engineering can be exciting, fun and rewarding. Today, FIRST serves over 250,000 young people in more than 50 countries.
Tom Friedman talks about why America must educate its young people to be innovators. This video is one of 63 video interviews in the new book Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.
Harvard researcher Dr. Tony Wagner and filmmaker Bob Compton have teamed up to produce a new book - Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.
Wagner provides a powerful rationale for preparing kids for an innovation-driven economy. He identifies a pattern in the lives of young innovators — a childhood of creative play leads to deep-seated interests, which in adolescence and adulthood blossom into a deeper purpose for career and life goals. Play, passion, and purpose: these are the forces that drive young innovators.
More than a book about innovation, Creating Innovators pioneers an entirely new reading experience. Noted filmmaker Bob Compton, who teamed up with Tony to make the movie "The Finland Phenomenon," has produced more than 60 original videos that expand on key ideas and passages in the book through interviews with young innovators, their parents, teachers and mentors.
This essay was published in the Super Bowl edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal
Much as the explorers in “Lost Horizon” stumbled into Shangri-La in the Himalayas, I found myself in the small Kingdom of Bhutan last October. As this tiny place moves into the 21st century, it has committed itself to be a society centered on the pursuit of happiness.
Poignantly, they measure Gross National Happiness, not Gross National Product. With goals of good health, community vitality, good governance and sustainable development, they are also creating a unique education system. No modern country has taken so much time to ponder, puzzle over and promote happiness in its schools.
I’ve been passionate about education from my first documentary film in 2007, “Two Million Minutes,” to my most recent, “The Finland Phenomenon.” Eager to learn about teaching for happiness, I spent several weeks touring Bhutan talking with parents, meeting the minister of education and interviewing teachers.
I was surprised by how the idea of happiness is woven into the fabric of everyday lives. And when conversation turned to schools, people were passionate that educating for happiness be the goal.
My visit to Bhutan and my research in China, India and Finland have caused me to ponder more deeply the purpose of school and the policies and practices that best support it.
China and India educate for commercial advantage, and each country has more than 200 million school children. Our 55 million kids will face extraordinary competition. But we can’t just teach the way they do. Our culture and our kids won't allow it. Nor is the Asian way the best for our children. Preparing our kids to be the world’s innovation leaders, and reviving our middle class, requires a uniquely Western approach.
Another country, similar in size to Indiana, has found a way to elevate its students to first in the world in problem solving, scientific literacy and math—Finland. What works in its schools is the muse of open-ended projects where kids learn by doing. Testing is included, but in moderation.
But the Finnish model only works if you have amazing teachers. And amazing teachers only come through a recruitment and training process that is highly selective and rigorous.
In Finland, just 10 percent of applicants are accepted into one of only eight colleges of education. By contrast, Indiana has 45 colleges offering teaching degrees and enrolling is easy. Where Indiana has thousands of teachers leaving each year, Finland has less than 1-percent attrition. Carefully selected and trained, great teachers stay in the profession.
With some effort, Indiana has made progress in raising the standards to become a teacher. Graduates from colleges of education must now have more comprehensive content knowledge, for example taking biology courses from the biology department, not the teachers college.
Also, industry professionals can finally be recruited into teaching as well as recent graduates with degrees in physics, biology and chemistry. Progress to be sure, but with a long way to go.
Bhutan’s approach is also worth pondering. Remarkable teachers can bring joy, inspiration and delight to American education. Schools that help kids find passions and purpose lead them toward happier lives. It also is the only way our kids can meet the Asian challenge.
Over 235 years ago, another country considered “the pursuit of Happiness” so important that it included that goal in its own Declaration of Independence. In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “The care of human life and happiness is the first and only object of good government.”
We had it right when we started. Perhaps it’s time to revisit our roots and consider the direction the Bhutanese are taking in the Kingdom of Happiness.●
Compton was a new venture investor in Indiana for 20 years and was Chairman of ExactTarget. He now lives in Washington, DC, where he produces documentary films about education and innovation
This is a Guest Post by Lindsey Wright from Onlineschools.org:
Creating the Political Will to Change Educational Performance
In his recent post on this blog, Lessons From Finland #1 - Teacher Education and Training, Bob Compton states that the quality crisis in the US education system can be solved by changing teacher's educational requirements to stipulate higher levels of education, specialization in the fields teachers teach, and an increase in the amount of time student teachers spend in classrooms under the guidance of experienced master-level teachers, rather than just in online courses or teacher training. He notes that these educational changes require the action of each state's governor and its legislature, and further states "All it takes is courage to withstand the screams from colleges of education - the sacred cash cow of most universities." At the heart of this issue is the question: "what does it take to effect political change?"
Actually making political changes, of course, is for better or worse ultimately in the hands of our elected officials. Unfortunately the primary concern for many politicians becomes getting elected, even if their motivations are purely to serve their constituencies. We must also recognize that their constituencies are comprised of both individuals and businesses or other organizations, some of which often have very different priorities. Because corporate entities are frequently the largest political donors, their needs are often addressed first. Call it corruption or simply the nature of democratic government; either way, corporate contributors' interests often lead politicians to prevent legislative changes that might threaten business. Education reform is no exception.
So what can be done to spur the process? Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for creating the political will to change educational performance standards in this country. However, there are steps that can be taken to slowly turn the political behemoth in the right direction.
First and foremost, our elected leadership must be willing to put education reform near the top of the political agenda. To make this happen, concerned constituents in each district must unite in pressuring politicians to respond to this priority. For individuals, this means expressing concern for the education of the children in their local school district. Local businesses must weight the costs of higher taxation against the advantages of having an educated workforce to rely upon in the future. This view is not always taken into account in commercial enterprises, but would benefit our economy immensely in the long term.
Secondly, we need to make school and teacher improvement a national economic priority. A very large number of American schools are currently embroiled in economic crises, without the funding to maintain reasonable classroom sizes or retain teaching professionals with experience and outstanding credentials. Alex Johnson of MSNBC states that "Federal education figures show that employee salaries make up about 80 percent of the typical school district’s budget." He quotes Eric Churchwell, superintendent of schools in Palmyra, Mo., who points out “if you have to reduce your budget substantially the only way to do that is to reduce your teaching staff." This causes not just a reduction in the number of teacher in our schools, but a reduction in quality of instruction. Teachers possessing the master's degree that Compton would have us require will cost more to hire and retain. In part this is because they will cost significantly more to train, and it would make little economic sense for aspiring teachers to pursue additional education without the prospect of better earnings.
Thirdly, we need continued support for post-graduate teacher education. If we require teachers to possess a master's degree, we must provide potential teachers with economic support through grants, loans, loan forgiveness programs, and scholarships to access this higher level of training. Since teachers often earn significantly lower salary as educators than they would in comparable private sector jobs in their fields, an economic incentive is necessary to keep them in the classroom when they might instead transition to the boardroom.
Finally, we need to address the upcoming teacher shortage. According to Sam Dillon of the New York Times, "Over the next four years, more than a third of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers could retire." This means that we will be loosing our most experienced teachers at a time when our educational system is already in crisis, leaving potential student teachers with far fewer resources for obtaining the full year of classroom experience that Compton proposes. Much of this shortage is a result of early retirement incentives given to older teachers to alleviate budget crunches in local school districts. To replace these retiring teachers, we will need the aforementioned financial support for post graduate teacher education more than ever.
Changing our educational system boils down to economics and politics. While our politicians often bemoan the current state of our educational system at election time, they fail to put the necessary funds into educational development when making fiscal decisions. They rely on business donations to make it in the political arena and can't afford to alienate the people who put them in power. Therefore, business interests are considered before those of individual constituents, and businesses simply don't want to pay to educate the populace. The only thing that will effectively change this viewpoint is a real effect on the bottom lines of corporate interests. When corporations are unable to find qualified, educated individuals to fill positions, then they will begin to see the need to change. In an employer's market, such prevails at the moment, this will take time. It may represent a profound misplacement of priorities on the part of politicians and the companies that pressure them, but nevertheless it's realistically the nature of the situation.
In the meantime it is up to schools, organizations, and individuals to continue expressing their concerns to their governing officials. While business pays for elections, only people can vote (and recall) our elected public servants if they fail to perform. In order to initiate educations reforms for teachers, we must make our politicians perform in the best interests of our children and our future.
One of the many things I learned producing my film The Finland Phenomenon, was the importance of setting a very high standard for the education and training of teachers.
Finland's high school teachers are required to have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in the subject they teach (e.g. - math, physics, history, etc) combined with one-year of pedagogical training with very heavy emphasis in real classroom teaching experience under the guidance of an outstanding seasoned teacher.
By contrast, most U.S. States require only a Bachelors degree from a college of education with an emphasis in the subject to be taught - and frequently that subject matter is taught by professors in the Education School, not in the actual subject department. Think of it as content and rigor "light" for teachers.
So, what should America do to apply this obvious lesson from Finland? My thoughts:
1- each U.S. State needs to cut off the supply of teachers not sufficiently prepared to teach this generation at its source. The source is colleges of education. A State legislature and Governor can change the requirements to be a teacher in their State. All it takes is courage to withstand the screams from colleges of education - the sacred cash cow of most universities.
2- To teach at the high school level, a State should require the prospective teacher to have at least an undergraduate degree in the subject they plan to teach and from the department that teaches that subject (e.g. - teaching math? Require a B.S. from the Math department).
3- Prospective teachers need more classroom training before they land in front of a group of their own students. The Finns (and Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Singaporeans, etc,) get this. A one-year pedagogical training, that includes at least 6 months of assisting a master teacher in the classroom, is critical to the new teacher's success. Observing great teaching, absorbing proven lesson plans, practice teaching with critique by the master teacher, learning classroom management, etc. This one year would be the prospective teacher's 5th year of study before certification - and is just crucial to their success.
The failure of all 50 U.S. States (plus DC) to prepare teachers for the demands of the classroom results in a staggering level of "churn" of new teachers.
From the data I have been able to gather, it appears that each year somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 first time teachers are hired (I get conflicting numbers). So, as many as 20,000-30,000 of those teachers are simply replacing the beginning teachers who quit after their first year.
The data would suggest that about half of the first time teachers hired each year are replacing other beginning teachers hired within the past 5 years who have simply quit. The remaining are replacing teachers who retire, are let go or are mid-career teachers who leave the profession. Check my math (I did go to public school) and verify the data, but that is my reading.
In business, if I saw anything close to that level of "churn" at the entry level of say, a sales organization, I'd be alarmed. You want your new hires to be successful early on. It is a hugely expensive undertaking to recruit and train a new employee - "churn" drives up costs enormously. Moreover, customer relationships - or student-teacher relationships - deteriorate terribly with this pattern.
SUMMARY: Raise the education requirements and require classroom-based training for new teachers and education costs will decline while results goes up. Moreover, one does not need to micro-manage highly trained, well prepared teachers.
It’s easy to get “A’s” if you’re an education major. Maybe that’s why one out of 10 college graduates major in education. Research over the years has indicated that education majors who enter college with the lowest average SAT scores, leave with the highest grades. Some of academic evidence documenting easy A’s for future teachers goes back more than 50 years!
The latest damning report on the ease of majoring in education comes from research at the University of Missouri, my alma mater. The study, conducted by economist Corey Koedel shows that education majors receive “substantially higher” grades than students in every other department.
Puff GPA’s Koedel examined the grades earned by undergraduates during the 2007-2008 school year at three large state universities that include sizable education programs — University of Missouri, Miami (OH) University, and Indiana University. The researcher compared the grades earned by education majors with the grades earned by students in 12 other majors including biology, economics, English, history, philosophy, mathematics, chemistry, psychology and sociology.
5 Lowest Grade Point Averages
Chemistry 2.78 GPA
Math 2.90 GPA
Economics 2.95 GPA
Psychology 2.98 GPA
Biology 3.02 GPA
Education majors enjoyed grade point averages that were .5 to .8 grade points higher than students in the other college majors. At the University of Missouri, for instance, the average education major has a 3.80 GPA versus 2.99 GPA (science, math, econ majors), 3.12 GPA (social science majors) and 3.16 GPA (humanities majors).
Consequences of Easy Grades for Education Majors Why should we care if education majors, who must survive classes like “kiddie lit,” coast through school? For starters, easy grading can prompt students to slack off. If you can earn an “A” with little effort why exert yourself? What’s more, if most students are getting A’s then how can employers distinguish the future teaching stars from the academic slugs?
Koedel also suggests that the low academic standards required of education majors can extend to low expectation of teachers after they leave college.
Low grading standards in education departments may contribute to the culture of low evaluation standards in education more generally. Although the existence of such a link is merely speculative at this point, there is a striking similarity between the favorable grades awarded to prospective teachers during university training and the favorable evaluations that teachers receive in K-12 schools.
It sounds like the only ones who are flunking these days are the education professors, who handing out all these easy A’s. These profs should spend time with teachers in departments like chemistry and economics to see how real grading works.