Sunday, January 25, 2009

Bill Gates on education

Below is an advance quote of a Bill Gates letter to be released Monday at (source is the NYTimes article by Nicholas Kristof)

“It is amazing how big a difference a great teacher makes versus an ineffective one,” Mr. Gates writes in his letter. “Research shows that there is only half as much variation in student achievement between schools as there is among classrooms in the same school. If you want your child to get the best education possible, it is actually more important to get him assigned to a great teacher than to a great school.”

I find this to be a very interesting conclusion drawn from his research efforts in education. Granted, my exposure educational change to has been limited, but my general impression is efforts have been made to standardize education - to standardize and make education into a standardized process - similar to running a franchise of McDonald's restaurants. Similarly, in my work there's always a push to find standardized off-the-shelf processes that can be deployed repeatedly and consistently.

This finding above that the individual teacher matters more than the process resonates with my experience. Administrative and managerial types fret over the "great person" models of success, whether its a good teacher or good employee who just seems to get things done, and try to shoe-horn activities into well defined processes that allow them to "plug-and-play" whenever employee turnover exists... but certainly in my experience it's the right people that really make things happen. That doesn't mean that great process doesn't go along with it - I'm a strong believer in process refinement and efficiency - but effective employees bring their own great processes along with them, not the other way around.

anyhow, just my attempt at reading between the lines for the day....

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