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These Teachers Make $125,000 +

Question: Why have we traditionally devalued teachers?

Zeke Vanderhoek: I’m not a historian, but I know that a lot of the devaluation of the teaching profession has to do with the fact that, not so long ago, it was really a profession that was only open to women. And so culturally the status of the profession was not what it should be. As the workforce opened up to women, I think what happened is teaching became, instead of something that’s very talented women who couldn’t get other jobs, because of the constraints in the culture, now it was open to anybody and it didn’t pay very well and that talent, to a certain extent, drained from the profession potentially.

This is just a theory. I really have no idea.

And what you’re left with is pockets of greatness. So you have great teachers throughout the country, phenomenal teachers but ultimately they are the exception not the rule. And that’s because we don’t culturally value teachers.

People make the mistake of thinking that the salary that we are offering is somehow designed to make a mediocre teacher better. Completely wrong. If you pay somebody more, it’s not going to make them a better teacher. That’s completely missing the point of the project.

The point of the project is just change the perception of who should become a teacher. It’s to change the sort of lip service mode of, “Oh, teachers we really value you,” to something concrete. In this culture, money is the signifier of value and so ultimately the goal is to attract more talent into the profession.

Right now we draw from the bottom third of college graduates to make up our teaching force and that’s unfortunate. The goal should be to draw from the top third of the college graduates to make up our teaching force.

I think teaching is one of those professions where there are many people who secretly want to do it and enjoy it when they are up there, but don’t really view it as feasible. They can’t support a family. It’s not really realistic to achieve other goals that they may have.

So I think teaching has a built in advantage over some other professions where for; not to pick on lawyers; but I think there are a lot of people who love the law. But there are a lot of people who go into the law because it pays the bills and it’s a relatively lucrative and respected profession. In that sense, I think teaching actually has a great advantage over other professions.

The problem is that right now it’s not realistic for a lot of people who are talented to go into it or they don’t view it is realistic.

And one of the interesting things with Teach for America is a lot of people who start the program think, Oh, I’ll just do this for a few years, but then they fall completely and madly in love with it, and stay on for the rest of their career.

So that I think is less likely to happen in some other professions but teaching has a certain magic to it that really gives it a lot of advantages.

Question: What makes these teachers worth $125,000?

Zeke Vanderhoek: We hired who we think are eighth grade teachers. We’ll find out. But they have a very extensive track record for the most part. Several of the teachers have over 30 years of experience. The youngest teacher we hired still has seven years of experience in the classroom.

So one thing is we’re not hiring first year teachers because; not that first year teachers can’t be great, but the learning curve is tremendous in that first year; so we’re hiring veteran teachers.

We’re hiring teachers who; we actually visit their classrooms everybody who made the final round we went and saw them and so we're hiring teachers who in their classroom developed a certain relationship that was apparent to an outsider with their students. Teachers who are thoughtful practitioners, who are reflective about what they are doing in the classroom, who can talk about what they can do in the classroom in a reflective way, in a critical way. They really think about all of the decisions that they make. We are talking about teachers who show that they can really engage students, capture that enthusiasm which is particularly important, I think, for middle school kids. And also teachers who are adaptive creating structures for kids.

Middle school kids, in particular, need structure and they need a teacher who can manage a classroom through teams, through variety of modalities.

Those are some of the things that we looked for, plus of course, we were looking for teachers who have passion about their subject and who could bring that passion and that extensive knowledge to their students.

I would make the case that one of the things about the school [Manhattan’s Equity Project Charter School] that’s very important is we do this on the public dollar. We are a public charter school in New York City. We actually get less money than a traditional public school in New York City, and yet we are able to pay teachers $125,000 a year, plus a potential bonus, based on school wide performance, without fundraising for that salary. The only thing that we fundraise for is our facility, and that’s because we don’t get a free public facility like every other school gets. But every other cost is absorb, or is paid for by our public dollars that we receive.

We have simply reallocated those dollars and said, what really we need to be investing on the most important part of the educational experience for students, and that’s their teachers. We need to invest in what we call teacher equity, hence the name the equity project.

And yes, we are going to sacrifice some other things to do so. We are not going to have tiny classes. We have 30 kids in a class. That’s not higher than I’ve experienced as a teacher. In fact it’s a little bit lower, but it’s certainly not small. We are going to do without a lot of the other personnel in the building that typically would be in a school. So, we are going to do a lot of things to make sacrifices in order to be able to invest in what we think is more cost effective in the long run which is investing in the teachers.

Recorded on: June 30, 2009.

Zeke Vanderhoek, founder of Manhattan’s Equity Project Charter School, is banking on the instructors he’s chosen to run the place.

Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

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  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

Image source: camillo jimenez/Unsplash
Technology & Innovation
  • 10-15% of people visiting emergency rooms eventually develop symptoms of long-lasting PTSD.
  • Early treatment is available but there's been no way to tell who needs it.
  • Using clinical data already being collected, machine learning can identify who's at risk.

The psychological scars a traumatic experience can leave behind may have a more profound effect on a person than the original traumatic experience. Long after an acute emergency is resolved, victims of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continue to suffer its consequences.

In the U.S. some 30 million patients are annually treated in emergency departments (EDs) for a range of traumatic injuries. Add to that urgent admissions to the ED with the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Health experts predict that some 10 percent to 15 percent of these people will develop long-lasting PTSD within a year of the initial incident. While there are interventions that can help individuals avoid PTSD, there's been no reliable way to identify those most likely to need it.

That may now have changed. A multi-disciplinary team of researchers has developed a method for predicting who is most likely to develop PTSD after a traumatic emergency-room experience. Their study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

70 data points and machine learning

nurse wrapping patient's arm

Image source: Creators Collective/Unsplash

Study lead author Katharina Schultebraucks of Columbia University's Department Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons says:

"For many trauma patients, the ED visit is often their sole contact with the health care system. The time immediately after a traumatic injury is a critical window for identifying people at risk for PTSD and arranging appropriate follow-up treatment. The earlier we can treat those at risk, the better the likely outcomes."

The new PTSD test uses machine learning and 70 clinical data points plus a clinical stress-level assessment to develop a PTSD score for an individual that identifies their risk of acquiring the condition.

Among the 70 data points are stress hormone levels, inflammatory signals, high blood pressure, and an anxiety-level assessment. Says Schultebraucks, "We selected measures that are routinely collected in the ED and logged in the electronic medical record, plus answers to a few short questions about the psychological stress response. The idea was to create a tool that would be universally available and would add little burden to ED personnel."

Researchers used data from adult trauma survivors in Atlanta, Georgia (377 individuals) and New York City (221 individuals) to test their system.

Of this cohort, 90 percent of those predicted to be at high risk developed long-lasting PTSD symptoms within a year of the initial traumatic event — just 5 percent of people who never developed PTSD symptoms had been erroneously identified as being at risk.

On the other side of the coin, 29 percent of individuals were 'false negatives," tagged by the algorithm as not being at risk of PTSD, but then developing symptoms.

Going forward

person leaning their head on another's shoulder

Image source: Külli Kittus/Unsplash

Schultebraucks looks forward to more testing as the researchers continue to refine their algorithm and to instill confidence in the approach among ED clinicians: "Because previous models for predicting PTSD risk have not been validated in independent samples like our model, they haven't been adopted in clinical practice." She expects that, "Testing and validation of our model in larger samples will be necessary for the algorithm to be ready-to-use in the general population."

"Currently only 7% of level-1 trauma centers routinely screen for PTSD," notes Schultebraucks. "We hope that the algorithm will provide ED clinicians with a rapid, automatic readout that they could use for discharge planning and the prevention of PTSD." She envisions the algorithm being implemented in the future as a feature of electronic medical records.

The researchers also plan to test their algorithm at predicting PTSD in people whose traumatic experiences come in the form of health events such as heart attacks and strokes, as opposed to visits to the emergency department.

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