Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan is a parent and has had long had an interest in education. He and his wife even created a scholarship for promising students from low-income backgrounds in his native Philadelphia, but the schools he saw while scouting for a movie location convinced him that handing out individual scholarships here and there would do little to battle the systemic problems in education. Most kids were still getting left behind.
So he traveled to schools—some that were succeeding with inner city students, and some that were not. He collected all of the data on the subject he could and came up with five keys to improving education and closing the gap in the US.
Shyamalan discussed his project and the book he wrote about it, I Got Schooled, on Squawk Box.
His five keys:
1. Start with good teachers:
Good teachers matter more than small class sizes. "There's a classroom with 30 kids and a great teacher and 11 kids and an okay teacher, where do you put your kid? It's a no brainer, the 31st kid," he said.
(Watch this: Minerva project vs. liberal arts education)
2. Principals, principals:
The best school principals spend the bulk of their time teaching the teachers and taking an active role in the classroom, instead of handling administrative tasks. Principals are the ones who uphold best practices and create the "incredibly intense" culture needed to close the racial gap in learning.
3. Keep it lean:
Class size may not be the most important factor, but keeping the entire school relatively small makes it easier.
Turns out 16 really is a magic number—giving students feedback on their work at least 16 times over the course of a school term pushes them past a "tipping point" where they learn things much more effectively.
4. Get an extension:
"Elbow out" the day. Start kids earlier in the morning, keep them later into the day, and extend the school year into the summer. Turns out, two-thirds of the education gap between white suburban students and minority students can be erased just by extending the amount of time spent in school each day.