How Is a Bad Radio Station Like Our Public-School System?

There is hope for American public schools – dim and slim, but here are some examples of methods that get better results [Freakonomics Radio podcast MP3]. The existing “factory model” of teacher + 25kids in a box worked fairly well at training workers for Henry Ford’s early plants. Is this the best we can do today?

The pilot program described in this podcast is just one example of the thousands of education innovations that could have been — if we could break the monopoly on K-12 schooling. I don’t know if School of One generalizes, but I do know we need to be innovating. There are some good ideas here:

We’ve all gotten used to the thrill of customization. Amazon.com knows what books you want; Netflix knows what movies you want; credit-card companies know what to try to sell you based on your past spending; and the internet-based Pandora Radio lets anyone customize the music he or she wants to hear. Could a New York City pilot program called School of One do the same thing for education?

[From How Is a Bad Radio Station Like Our Public-School System?]

Arthur Levine is impressed. One of the quoted results from the short one-summer experience of School of One was this: four to eight times the progress in one-third the elapsed time (vs the controls).

One of Levitt’s memorable analogies goes something like this:

If you live in a city, like New York, you can choose amongst thousands of competing chefs and innovative restaurants. Now suppose instead, that your only choice of eateries are canteens run by the NYC Superintendent of Food.