The education system in America is in need of help. Some areas are worse than others, and watching documentaries like Waiting for Superman is a wake up call to anyone that has never seen the lottery system by which some of our children are selected to go to certain schools. Where I live in Michigan, we’ve seen schools close, multiple schools consolidate, and more.
Now, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has written a book, called I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education Gap, with five practices that could help to fix our educational system. The five practices seem like they’d require more work on the part of educators everywhere, plus more accountability, but since when has that been a bad thing?
The five practices are:
1. Identifying ineffective teachers.
2. Promoting instructional leadership.
3. Mandatory, frequent, and collaborative feedback on teaching practice.
4. Reducing school size.
5. Adding more time.
But what lead Night to write this book? He was scouting locations for a film in two Philadelphia schools. He was stunned by the dramatic differences between those two neighboring schools. This lead to years of research, talking to leading education experts, and visiting schools nationwide. In the book, he uses examples from schools in New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Houston.
I’m very excited about the release of this book, and think it could benefit the education system greatly. I’d also like to point out why I think that Night is the right person to write a book like this, and it’s not just because I’m a big fan of his work. It’s because he comes from a family of medical professionals who have been through many years of schooling beyond what many of us go through. It’s because he’s incredibly intelligent, and could very well be a doctor himself right now, had he not gone the route of becoming a director. It’s because he’s high-profile enough that his book will get loads of press. And finally, it’s because his ideas are tested ideas that have worked in the past separately, but simultaneously could yield much greater results than even doing all five steps separately.
Night’s done his homework, and this is something that, if acted on, should revolutionize education in the 21st century, and by doing so, it could change the world for the better. Better teachers, better students, better education leading to better employers, better employees and better companies.
The Wall Street Journal had an opportunity to sit down with Night and talk about his new book. Here are a couple of excerpts:
After the commercial success of his early movies, he wanted to get involved in philanthropy. At first, he gave scholarships to inner-city children in Philadelphia, but he found the results disheartening. When he met the students he had supported over dinner, he could see that the system left them socially and academically unprepared for college. “They’d been taught they were powerless,” he says.
Much of his initial research was contradictory. When he asked experts which improvements would close the gap, some said smaller classes, others said school vouchers and still others said school spirit. He discovered that none of these reforms had worked across the board, but this finding, paradoxically, encouraged him. He knew he had to think more broadly.
An idea came to him over dinner with his wife and another couple who were both physicians. One of them, then the chief resident at a Pennsylvania hospital, said that the first thing he told his residents was to give their patients several pieces of advice that would drastically increase their health spans, from sleeping eight hours a day to living in a low-stress environment. The doctor emphasized that the key thing was doing all these things at the same time—not a la carte.
“That was the click,” says Mr. Shyamalan. It struck him that the reason the educational research was so inconsistent was that few school districts were trying to use the best, most proven reform ideas at once. He ultimately concluded that five reforms, done together, stand a good chance of dramatically improving American education. The agenda described in his book is: Eliminate the worst teachers, pivot the principal’s job from operations to improving teaching and school culture, give teachers and principals feedback, build smaller schools, and keep children in class for more hours.
You can read the whole article, here: M. Night Shyamalan Takes on Education Reform