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mercredi 14 août 2013

What Makes Education Systems Work?

Dana Goldstein reviews Amanda Ripley new book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way:

Ripley believes that compared with their counterparts abroad, too many American educators rely on poverty as an excuse for poor student achievement. Indeed, a large body of research shows that teachers who hold high expectations for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic background, get better results. At a Finnish school, Ripley interviews a teacher who articulates this way of thinking. “I don’t want to have too much empathy for them,” he says of his immigrant students, “because I have to teach. If I thought about all of this too much, I would give better marks to them for worse work. I’d think, ‘Oh you poor kid. Oh, well, what can I do?’ That would make my job too easy.”

While this is sound pedagogy, Ripley may be paying short shrift to the fact that countries like Finland, with functional, affordable health care, and housing programs, free teachers to spend a lot less time doing social work and more time focusing on academics. If The Smartest Kids in the World has a weakness, it is that the students it profiles are all broadly middle-class or affluent, so readers don’t get much of a sense of the very real effects that poverty and inequality can have on academic achievement across the world.

Charles Kenny wants education policies around the globe to become more evidence-based:

[Justin Sandefur and Lant Pritchett of the Center for Global Development] argue that varying results from the same policy intervention across different regions and implementing agencies suggest not that evaluation is pointless, but that we should be experimenting and evaluating much more often. In some cases, it will turn out that a new policy has broadly similar effects when evaluated in many different places: Cash transfers to poor families have been evaluated in a range of different communities around the world and pretty consistently lead to better health and education outcomes for kids, for example. But for many—perhaps the majority—of policy problems, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. When an expert says, “If it worked in Cleveland, it will work here,” ask why it worked in Cleveland, and whether the conditions the same here. Then try it, and evaluate it. And then try something else. And so on.

AUG 14 2013 @ 4:43PM

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