Clare Leaver and Lant Pritchett on Pay for Performance for teachers (and how to think about interventions in general)

Even if you’re not interested in pay for performance, this article is is fantastic in the way that it sets a clear foundation for discussion of an emotive topic by pointing out the often-overlooked but obvious common ground shared by readers on all sides of the debate: Here is the essence of our argument. High-performing education systems already use some…

Lant Pritchett on reducing learning poverty: targeted interventions vs systemic change

“… when the whole system is producing weak results for nearly every child, then “inclusion” is a false premise. In this situation, it is necessary to fix the whole system and increase performance across the board in order to reduce the number of children stranded in low performance. Lant Pritchett – Tackling Education poverty with system-wide improvements Lant Pritchett is…

Raj Chetty on return on investment for social programs

Raj Chetty: This was an impressive study conducted by my colleagues Nathan Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser at Harvard… and the main punchline that they arrived at… is, programs that invest in kids – that is, programs targeted at developing human capital, at education, at improving development – tend to have very high rates of return, in fact sometimes infinite rates…

Russ Roberts on inequality and poverty

Our age right now – this might change – is obsessed with inequality. And it disturbs me deeply that inequality is conflated with poverty. They’re not the same thing. A lot of people blame the condition of the poor on inequality as if the world was a zero sum game. If you press the person who says that [they’ll say]…

Karl Marx on automation and job losses due to disruption

“In these spacious halls the benignant power of steam summons around him his myriads of willing menials.” Andrew Ure Marx’s rage against the machine Another thought about the rate of change and “distruption,” this time from Karl Marx. I love Marx’s writing and his desire to do better for the working poor, even as I sigh at his wrong economics…

On inequality

Inequality is inevitable (because we’re all different), and it isn’t necessarily wrong (if we value the freedom to make meaningful choices) and doesn’t necessarily have to be corrected (because we value diversity). Once we’re clear on this, we’re forced to be specific. We can ask which kinds of inequality we’re not prepared to tolerate, making sure that we’re clear about…

The Onion (3): exemplar interesting problem – learning to read

Problems gain (or lose) interestingness as their context and scale changes. Take teaching a kids to read as an example. It’s almost inevitable that a child will learn to read given the following ingredients: A supportive family A strong reading culture at home A steady supply of good books A reasonable curriculum or methodology for teaching An well educated, motivated…

Econtalk: Mauricio Miller on Poverty, Social Work, and the Alternative

This is a really interesting episode of Econtalk, and worth a listen. Highlight 1: Accurate description of poor communities A couple of things here really resonated with my experience of living and working in low-income communities in Jakarta: Miller’s descriptions of the resourcefulness of people in poor communities – that many people in poor communities are hard working and resourceful…

Kicking cans: job descriptions versus culture

A few days ago I watched a schoolboy kicking a can down the road. He kicked it a couple of times and then miskicked, sending the can flying into the road, where it landed at the feet of an off-duty city cleaning worker, still in his orange uniform. These guys are fantastic: they put in the hard yards of sweeping…

Good starts

We think we see good starts all the time, but most of the time we see wrong. Most of the time what looks like a good start – of a work day, a career, a diet, a business, a life – most of the time what looks like a good start is a long way into the story, the business-end…