Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?

Season 5, Episode 16

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio: a look at the supply side of the education equation — the teachers — as well the demand side, the students. 

Teacher quality has a huge impact. So how can we best identify, educate, and reward the good ones? And what can be done to take failing students and put them on a track to graduation?

How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Our previous episode -- "Is America's Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?" -- looked at the role of teacher skill in the education equation. But the education equation isn't so simple -- there are a lot of inputs, a lot of variables, a lot of question marks. Our conclusion: sure, it would be great to have a brilliant teacher in every classroom -- but that still doesn't guarantee that every student will be well-educated. Students have to want it; families have to want it. What is a teacher and a school system supposed to do if a lot of its students just don't really care about school?

That brings us to this week's episode, "How to Fix a Broken High Schooler, in Four Easy Steps." (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes or elsewhere, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript, which includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

It's about a program called Pathways to Education, which came out of a community health center in Regent Park,  a housing project in Toronto. You'll hear from Carolyn Acker, who used to run the center: