Archives for teachers



Please Lend Your Voice to an Upcoming Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Would you like to hear your voice on a future Freakonomics Radio episode? Hope so! Here are the details:

We recently put out a two-part episode on education reform, the first on teacher skill and the second on a community-based project called Pathways to Education. The response from listeners was huge — and, often, very opinionated. It seems as though everyone had a concrete idea for the one thing that would really improve our education system.

So we’ve decided to make an episode about … what you think is the one thing that would really improve our education system. If all goes well, the episode will be made up primarily of listeners’ voices — that is, your voice. Read More »



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: Read More »



Losing Experienced Teachers Is Bad for Schools, Right?

Maybe not. A new working paper (abstract; PDF) by Maria Fitzpatrick and Michael Lovenheim finds that offering early retirement to experienced schoolteachers doesn’t have a negative effect on students’ test scores, and in some cases leads to an improvement. The abstract:

Early retirement incentives (ERIs) are increasingly prevalent in education as districts seek to close budget gaps by replacing expensive experienced teachers with lower-cost newer teachers. Combined with the aging of the teacher workforce, these ERIs are likely to change the composition of teachers dramatically in the coming years.  We use exogenous variation from an ERI program in Illinois in the mid-1990s to provide the first evidence in the literature of the effects of large-scale teacher retirements on student achievement.  We find the program did not reduce test scores; likely, it increased them, with positive effects most pronounced in lower-SES schools.

Read More »



It’s Crowded at the Top: A New Marketplace Podcast

Our latest podcast, “Crowded at the Top,” presents a surprising explanation for why the U.S. unemployment rate is still relatively high. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.)

It features a conversation with the University of British Columbia economist Paul Beaudry, one of the authors (along with David Green and Benjamin Sand) of a new paper called “The Great Reversal in the Demand for Skill and Cognitive Tasks“: Read More »



How to Auction Off an Unwanted Duty

A high-school economics teacher named Steve Fortna writes from Colorado with a clever solution:

The Spirit Week (formerly known as Homecoming) Dance is upon us.  This Friday I will be pressed into service to monitor the dress and dance of around 150 kids while a DJ, who does not care about the moral development of young adults in their formative years, plays whatever music they want to hear.  Loudly.  I really do not want to be there.  I am not alone in that sentiment.  

My school has tried various methods of determining which teachers should be on chaperone duty at each dance over the years without much success.  Either we all go (way too many people but at least we’re all in the same boat), or only a select few (more efficient use of faculty, but it’s not fair).  While most teachers don’t particularly enjoy monitoring dances, there are different levels of unease.  What’s an equitable way to determine who’s on duty?

Read More »



The Best Third-Grade Teacher Ever

One of the most important economic issues we face today is how much to spend on education, both individually and as a society. As tax revenues decline due to demographic changes and deteriorating business conditions, municipalities have to make tough choices about which programs to cut, and education is often an early victim. Because we don’t yet have good measures of all the future benefits produced by better education today, school programs are easy targets for cost-cutting measures, especially in lower-income regions where parents are focused on meeting more basic needs and less likely to put up a fight. But experiments like Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone hint at the enormous impact that early educational support can have on lifetime achievement.

I have my own example: Mrs. Ficalora, the best third-grade teacher ever. Read More »



Raising Money to Teach Math

A reader named Karim Kai Ani writes:

Guy walks into a bar and says, “We’ve got this math curriculum that everyone is saying is the bomb (a dangerous thing to say when you have my name, but go with me), and we’re Kickstarting a video series to offer teachers a new vision of what it means to teach math.”

And the waitress says, “You should see if the dudes from Freakonomics would tweet about it. Didn’t they mention Mathalicious on their blog once?”

Read More »



Cutting Class, With the School’s Help

Via the Globe & Mail: it used to be that when you wanted to cut class, you’d have to get a friend to sign you into class, or you’d have to beat your parents home to delete any incriminating messages on the answering machine. But those methods are bush league compared to a recent California initiative. United Press International reports that 50 high school students were caught colluding with a school administrator in an attendance scam: Read More »