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The forth presenter was a researcher that had started as a teacher. She noticed that the students with the highest IQs didn’t always perform best. She decided to go off and study what factors made the most difference. Statistically comparing everything: income, how safe they felt in school, parents, neighborhood, etc., she concluded that the thing that made the most difference was grit. She defines grit as perseverance, stamina for long term goals. The more she studied the more she found this was a major factor in other types of success, such as teaching. I found this presentation extremely fascinating. This seems like something that can be taught early to children when they are most pliable. Imagine a kindergarten class that taught based on these findings – one that created an environment with obstacles and rewarded children for overcoming. One that set long term goals and worked toward those each day, with a big pay off at the end. One that de-emphasized instance gratification and emphasized long term vision.

Fifth was Bill Gates. I have always liked Bill, he has done amazing things and he continues to break ground with his foundation. He is very data driven and works hard not just to prove his money does good, but that it is efficiently applied to get the most bang for the buck. Bill may well end up saving more lives than any one in history with his vaccination program and drive to eradicate diseases like polio. Anyway, he talked about how everyone needs a coach, from a pro athlete to him (e.g. bridge coach). But he says teachers rarely have coaches and does not understand why. Coaching involves good evaluation and good feedback on that evaluation. He says most teachers just get a “you’re doing fine” feedback and can’t learn from that. To make his point, he puts up a list of the top country ranks for education and USA is tied for 15th with the likes of Poland (and even worse in math and science). Then he says, how many of the higher ranked countries provide some kind of formal coaching, and it as a lot of them.

His idea, and what they have started as an experiment is to put cameras in the classroom and use the video to evaluate teachers. He says it takes a while for teachers to get used to the idea of a camera, but they do. I think he says they get to choose the classes they want reviewed. They have found that having the excellent teachers review the other, they can provide insight and feedback the makes them better teachers. He points out that in a lot of countries the teachers get together once a week and discuss techniques and problems they are having and are able to become better because of it. Football teams to this all the time, review the film evaluate weaknesses and strengths, address weakness and game plan to emphasize the strengths. They are very rigorous and formal. Think of Demming's famous theories of process improvement – continuous improvement. He was ignored in the US, but in Japan they worshiped him after WW2. They learned to constantly evaluate metrics and use that to improve their products and procedures, to eliminate errors. This is how they built a car industry that kicked out butt for a long time. Think of Sony vs RCA (out of business). Think of Apple. Do you think Steve Jobs just let things happen, heck no! He had a vision and had his hands in it everyday making sure people performed at the highest level with a goal and vision in mind. This is the kind of focus and effort we need.

Bill shows the cost of implementing his idea and it would only amount to the cost of 2% of the wages and benefits teachers make. (Don’t worry, he is not suggesting a pay cut). His point is, this is a small cost with a large payout.

(In an article in today’s Washington Post Bill is being interviewed about his vaccination efforts. One worry he expresses for the US is that states are shifting more and more to healthcare and away from education).
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