David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Reforming Education

Question: Is there a role for educators in running school systems?

Joel Klein: I think the answer is there is a need for educators at both levels.

At the highest level, you need somebody who understands academic standards, who makes sure that they’re rigorous, somebody who understands pedagogy, and how it’s done.

But you also need managers. And if you try to do this either/or, you’re gonna get it wrong.

And the problem with the educational establishment is they want all people who are reading from the same hymnal.

And my view is the way you create an environment for robust and dynamic change is, you bring together people who are reading from different tracks and you integrate those efforts to make sure that you’ve got educational pedagogical expertise, but that you also have managerial expertise, that you have leadership.

Michael Barber, who did a lot of this work for Tony Blair when Blair was Prime Minister in the UK, he’s written a book recently called “Instruction to Deliver,” and he lays this out in chapter and verse. And I haven’t read anything that better addresses the set of issues that you’re talking about which is fundamentally it’s not an either/or equation. And we’ve got to stop presenting it that way.

By the same token, there’s real resistance in the educational establishment to bringing in people who have the managerial and leadership and other qualities that are going to be necessary to do the transformative work.

If you thought the status quo was okay, you wouldn’t worry about it. But I submit to you, anybody who looks at the numbers, looks at our racial and ethnic achievement gap, looks at the growing achievement gap between America and our global competitors. If you look at all of those things, the recent tests that came out, America versus the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries where we did not perform well. If you look at college graduates, if you look at engineers, if you look at mathematics, in India and China, if you look at all of those metrics, you cannot remotely think the status quo is where we need to be in K-12 education. And if you get purveyors or worshippers as the status quo, or small bore incremental change, you’ll get the status quo or small bore incremental change.

It takes a visionary like Michael Bloomberg who’s really willing to do transformative leadership with all the noise and all the heat that attends that, in order to really change a system that has fundamentally been stultified, non innovative, non aligned in terms of the traditional meritocracy and incentives that effective organizations always have.

Question: What role will the teachers' unions play in reform?

Joel Klein: I think the union has a somewhat different job, and you have to create an environment in which you can work productively. But the union's job is to protect its workers and the school system's job is to maximize the outcomes for our students; number of kids graduating, kids performing at grade, so on and so forth.

And what Al Shanker saw and wrote about, who was probably the most prominent teacher labor leader ever in America. He started the United Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and he understood that you would have to move from a trade union model to a professional model. And that's happening here in New York, it's happening in other cities. Is it happening as fast as I'd like? No. But it's certainly happening.

And over time, what I think you need to do is to convince teachers of several things that they will find increasingly congenial. One being part of a successful enterprise. There's an enormous amount of reward too, that some of my schools today, particularly schools in high needs neighborhoods, that are doing some incredible work.

The teachers who are part of that feel the psychic benefits and rewards of succeeding with populations that a lot of people say you can't succeed with.

Second thing you need to do is create rational economic incentives. Those teachers take on the tougher jobs, they have to be rewarded. Those teachers who really have the expertise in science and math, which is so valuable to our country, in which there are always shortages in the school system, they have to be rewarded differently.

And I think over time we need to create an alternative pay structure in which we front load, so the young talented people who may not stay 25 years, but they may stay 5 or 10 or 15 years in the system, and they get rewarded in the earlier years.

So I think you need a whole series of rational human resource policies that will support people and over time they will move.

As I said, I would always like to see it happen more quickly, but you have an established work force, grown up under certain rules, and the union, its job is to protect that workforce.

My job is to create opportunities so that the union and its workforce sees that there could be a better, brighter, more exciting future. And that's a kind of almost Galion dialectic, right. I mean if you think about it, you got a thesis/antithesis and then you try to find a synthesis that moves you forward.

But what will it take? It will require bold thinking and strong union leadership. So recently we put together a school-based pay-for-performance program here in New York that we're now implementing in 200 of our highest need schools. When I started five and a half years ago, that would have been impossible. Now it's possible and I believe in five years from now, much bolder, much more innovative structures will come into play.

Just recently in "The New York Times," we're opening a charter in this city and the starting salary for teachers is gonna be $125,000. That's like radical, that's entirely different. Will it work? We don't know. Should it be tried?  And maybe you attract a different breed of cat with different set of incentives who's willing to tackle this in a different way, and maybe the results that come out of that is that you have somewhat fewer teachers, but that you have teachers who view their job differently and whose commitment and whose talents are different. And that's the kind of thing you wouldn't have seen when I started this job six years ago. Just that kind of innovation wasn't part of the equation, now it's happening in a variety of ways throughout the nation. 

Recorded on: March 30, 2008



There is a need for educators at all levels of the system.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
Keep reading Show less

How Hemingway felt about fatherhood

Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.

Ernest Hemingway Holding His Son 1927 (Wikimedia Commons)
Culture & Religion

Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?

Keep reading Show less

The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

  • Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
  • "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
  • In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
Keep reading Show less

Masturbation boosts your immune system, helping you fight off infection and illness

Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?

Image by Yurchanka Siarhei on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
  • The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
  • Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
Keep reading Show less

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.