The Best Approach: Top-Down or Bottom-up?

Question: Is the bottom-up approach the best approach?

Charles Best: Yeah, well all about bottoms up, open source approaches to improving our public schools. One classroom at a time and there are number of people who actually support microfinance often in the form of Keyba [phonetic] and support DonorsChoose as well and I think that is because our both microfinance and Keyba specifically and are premised on this notion that people on the frontlines can do really smart things with small sums of money and whether that is a Bangladeshi women who knows best how a $100 could start up a business or whether that is a teacher in American classroom who knows best how a $100 could help his or her students, the idea is the same that with the bottoms up approach, your microsolutions are going to be better targeted and more innovated, more sensitive to the needs of those students than any, than a top-down program. But that is said, I think is just one piece, it is the bottoms up component of the over all picture which does need to include top-down smart policies. So, I don’t think we would propose an open-source bottoms-up approached to everything, but I do think that piece has been missing and in that regard is really filling a void.

Question: Does No Child Left Behind work?

Charles Best: I'd have to defer to the policy experts, I am of embarrassed to admit that because I was in the classroom for five years and four of those years working on, I don’t know as much as I should about the broader field of education policy, but my sense is that “No Child Left Behind” has imposed some reporting requirements which are really healthy. So, although some of the tests are kind of dumb and some of the test may not be a very good capture of students real learning. Nevertheless, it is really healthy for all public schools to be forced to look at whether they are leaving certain groups of students behind, whether they're exacerbating or closing the achievement gap, whether special education students are not catching up, and that requirement, I think has been really healthy, but I guess I have the same concern with the testing approaches I do with text books and that's that, they can be really boring and when I was teaching history there was one book that is called A History of Us by this author, Joy Hakim, I am do not even know how to pronounce last name, but he was the first riveting history textbook that I ever read and that is because it wasn’t written by committee, it wasn’t sort of written to it hear a certain regulations, this is amazing book and I think just as there is actually one reverent history textbook there could be a test that is not just written in really dry language by a committee of academics, there could be a test that is interesting, that really does a better job of capturing true learning and if we could emphasize that kind of quality in testing, then I think I would be especially in favor of imposing testing requirements across the board.


Recorded on: 1/29/08

When it comes to education, is bottom-up really the best approach? Does No Child Left Behind work?

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