Famed director M. Night Shyamalan has long had a serious interest in education. The MNS Foundation he and his wife started once gave college scholarships to promising inner-city students, but Shyamalan realized that these scholarships did nothing to improve education for all the other students in under-performing schools. When he learned that some schools were succeeding with similar student populations, he traveled across the country to find out how they did this and whether these schools had something in common. He eventually learned that there are five keys to closing America’s achievement gap. But just as we must do several things simultaneously to maintain good health— eat the right foods, exercise regularly, get a good night’s sleep—so too must we use all five keys to turn around our lowest-performing schools.
These five keys are used by all the schools that are succeeding, and no schools are succeeding without them. Before he discovered them, Shyamalan investigated some popular reform ideas that proved to be dead ends, such as smaller class size, truculent unions, and merit pay for teachers. He found that the biggest obstacle to school reform is cognitive biases: too many would-be reformers have committed themselves to false solutions (*) .
This is a deeply personal book by an unbiased observer determined to find out what works and why, so that we as a nation can fulfill our obligation to give every student an opportunity for a good education.
(*) Not the answer to closing the education gap:
- small classroom sizes
- master’s programs and Ph.D.’s for the teachers
- paying teachers like doctors
- funding the schools at $20,000 per pupil
Truly a book worth reading … and sharing … widely.
Here is a 58 minute video interview with M. Night Shyamalan that’s worth watching [click here to watch].
For busy people, I am posting a summary at tommilesabq.com of each of the five practices MNS Foundation discovered that “moved the needle” in closing the gap.