Trapped in Mediocrity by Katherine Baird
Why Our Schools Aren't World-Class and What We Can Do About It

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The reader is brought along with summarizations; each premise builds on the last. It is a monumental effort that deserves the attention of educators at all levels. The next phase—i.e. the implementation—requires Dr. Baird’s deft hand as well.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

Our students aren’t learning, we’re falling behind other countries, and many of our college graduates are even functionally illiterate. We offer our kids a weak and poorly thought out curriculum; too many teachers do not make good use of classroom time and follow lesson plans that are superficial and repetitive; almost all state governments define “proficiency” at low levels of competency; and because kids with very uneven skills populate a classroom, teachers spend considerable time on review before introducing new material. This dismal picture is tempered by the fact that the hard work and dedication of countless teachers and administrators means that many students get an excellent education. But it doesn’t temper it much. As a group, even our top students are not as strong as are those in a large majority of other rich countries.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Katherine Baird, an economist, starts by clearly spelling out how our educational system is trapped in mediocrity. Yet, she doesn’t just expose where we are. She identifies the steps to get out of the trap. We need to (1) dramatically reform our education’s governance structure, (2) establish high expectations for all students, (3) provide adequate support to meet those expectations, and (4) introduce strong incentives for students to work hard in school so they do their part in meeting higher standards. Clearly, it isn’t as simple as it sounds, but Baird carefully examines each factor that has led to the current state in education and then spells out how a combination of policies will weaken the forces that keep our schools mediocre and instead make them ones worth copying
 

About Katherine Baird

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Katherine Baird is associate professor of economics in the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics program at the University of Washington, Tacoma. She received her PhD in economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and also holds an MS in agricultural economics from Michigan State University and a BA in economics from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2008 she was a Fulbright scholar in economics at the Universidad del País Vasco in Bilbao, Spain. Prior to beginning her career as an academic, Katie spent five years working in the field of agriculture and agricultural policy in Africa; during three of these she lived in a small rice-growing village in Mauritania's Senegal River Valley. She also spent two years working in Washington, DC, for the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of State, and a private firm providing consulting services to federal agencies. In addition to teaching, Katie also writes a regular column on public economics for Washington State's second-largest newspaper, Tacoma's The News Tribune.
 
Published August 9, 2012 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 255 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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NY Journal of Books

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Reviewed by Diane Brandley on Aug 16 2012

The reader is brought along with summarizations; each premise builds on the last. It is a monumental effort that deserves the attention of educators at all levels. The next phase—i.e. the implementation—requires Dr. Baird’s deft hand as well.

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