The EducationRevolution – What’s the Difference

What are the contributing factors for success? It’s a huge question for any institution that seeks to improve itself. For us, in education, much is said about the critical importance of the teacher – but also for technology, class size, economic advantages, school size, etc. Studies show one thing and then new studies show something else.

The other day I was listening to a New York Times podcast, and the speaker was interviewing Patricia Cohen, the Arts Beat blogger for the newspaper. Cohen was asked about a post she had just written, Angst Before High School, discussing a working paper by Roland G. Fryer of the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard and Will Dobbie, a predoctoral research fellow.

The paper (Exam High Schools and Academic Achievement: Evidence from New York City) examines the academic impact of selective (exams-based) high schools.  They looked at New York’s Brooklyn Technical High School, the Bronx High School of Science, and Stuyvesant High School and specifically the students whose entrance score were close to the cutoff point.  They wanted to compare students whose score were close together, some barely making it into “an environment of high achievers, more advanced coursework and higher expectations,” and some just barely missing out and attending a regular public high school.  These were talented students with similar ability and achievement but, assumedly, attending dramatically different high schools.

Their findings?

..the impact of attending an exam school on college enrollment or graduation is, if anything, negative. There is also little impact of attending an exam school on SAT reading and writing scores, and, at best, a modest positive impact on SAT math scores. ((Dobbie, Will, & Fryer, R. G. (2011). Exam high schools and academic achievement: evidence from new york city. Informally published manuscript, Education Innovation Laboratory, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Retrieved from

There results were consistent across genders, baseline state test scores and type of middle school.

Now there is much that these conclusions do not explain and there are many ways to explain the findings.  But Cohen said something during the interview that struck me and my world view as true.  She said that (and I paraphrase)

The motivated, talented, interested student is going to do well, no matter what school.

The Student who cares.

Sir Ken Robinson, Ewan MacIntosh, and others will be talking later on today at TEDxLondon, The Education Revolution and I plan to watch and Tweet it.  It is my own humble opinion, though, that any revolutionary school must be a place that inspires students to creatively cultivate skills; to resourcefully seek out, gather, and grow knowledge; and to care about it.

You see, I worry for those students of similar talent who, for any of a number of reasons, do not care, may not graduate, will not continue their education, will continue their lives as failures and the cost to them — and to us — of their wasted talents.




6 thoughts on “The EducationRevolution – What’s the Difference”

  1. This article was a good read. This has certainly been an issue that has been facing education for about as long as it has been around. I think one of the most interesting things to take from the article is that educators certainly need to do their best to reach those that may not care to be reached, but realize that it won’t be an easy task. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

  2. Your post reminded me of what my grandfather said. A kid that wants to learn can learn anywhere.

    While there are exceptions, this is likely the rule.

    Motivating the unmotivated may be our biggest hurdle.

  3. This is the awesome thing about America! It is up to the individual to make something of themselves. A student can come from a poverty struck, inner city school, neighborhood, and family and with hard work and dedication make something of themself. I completely agree with the author who wrote this article. “The motivated, talented, interested student is going to do well no matter what school.” Nothing more needs to be said.

    1. @Brittany Staub, there is something to be said about intrinsic value in our students today. I liken their approaches to academics as microwaveably instant; little patience without real interest. The statement “the motivated, talented, interested student is going to do well no matter what school” is very true. Ultimately, I think educators need to revamp their strategies to reach those that are not interested, continue to engage the ones that are, and ensure those with great talent know what they possess. Students need to know that their future matters even if they don’t believe it themselves. Educators need to foster a positive learning environment to increase their interest in learning and use of critical thinking skills; they are our future.

  4. This is the great thing about America! No matter what background a student has, with hard work and dedication he/she can make something of themself. “The motivated, talented, interested student is going to do well, no matter what school.” Nothing more needs to be said.

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