Bill Gates’ TED talk on education

He starts talking about education at the 8:06 mark.

A few good points:

  • If everyone in the USA had teachers in the top 25% of the teaching distribution, we could catch up to Asia in terms of student performance in about two years. In four years we could blow the world away (Note diminishing returns and other factors here are important, probably understated by Gates).
  • Teachers are paid based on how long they've been teaching, and whether or not they have a masters' degree in education. These two factors are nearly irrelevant to teacher performance. As a result, we're not retaining our best teachers.
  • Most states have rules limiting the amount of times the principal is allowed to visit a classroom. In one state the principal can make one visit per year and must inform the teacher ahead of time. Other states have laws that you are not allowed to use data on teacher performance in making tenure decisions.
  • We have more data on teacher performance than ever before, and we also have cheaper access than ever before - it's easier for the best teachers to be available because of cheap video technology.

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