K-12 Education

School of Hard Knocks

October 7, 2011

“You’ll be paid and promoted the longer you stay breathing,” said a fired-up Steven Brill of public-school teachers at an Institute talk this week as part of the Alma and Joseph Gildenhorn Book Series. Brill, author of the new book Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools, castigated the practice of tenure for life, complex teacher-evaluation hearings, and the unwillingness of teachers’ unions to embrace reform. “Who is it you’re most worried about?” he asked. “The kids or the adults?” Brill went on to cite one teacher’s evaluation hearing, which “went on longer than the O.J. Simpson trial”; to beseech Education Secretary Arne Duncan to ask for Race To The Top grant money back from state education officials who don’t keep up their end of the bargain; and to describe a low-performing public school and a high-performing charter school that sit next to one another in New York City, where he said he wanted to grab the public school kids and smuggle them into the charter—“It’d be like taking kids to the other side of the Berlin Wall!” In other words, it’s a must-see for anyone interested in education reform.

Watch the full video of Isaacson’s conversation with Brill: