I’ve just begun reading the book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by behavioral economist Dan Ariely, and was delighted to find that Learning First’s Public School Insights just published an interview with him about how his research relates to schools.

I’d strongly encourage you to read the whole piece. Here are some excerpts:

Teachers actually control a very small part of the variance. Parents control some of it. Neighborhoods control some of it. What people decide to put on the test controls some of it. And the weather, and whether a kid is sick, and lots of other things determine the final score.

So when we create these score-based systems, we not only tend to focus teachers on a very small subset of [what we want schools to accomplish], but we also reward them largely on things that are outside of their control. And that’s a very, very bad system.

I think that we just need to get people who really care about teaching. We need to pay them a living wage, and we need to make sure that they are proud of what they’re doing. We need to give them autonomy and flexibility, and we need to put trust in them. And that would motivate them.