Teach the Children Well / Shawn Benjamin

Jan 25, 2024

One of the many challenges facing the United States today is an education system that seems to be rotting from the bottom: while graduate and professional schools are still world-class, elementary, middle and high schools are widely criticized for failing to prepare American kids for the future.


  • In recent international comparative testing, U.S. eighth graders produced their lowest scores ever in math. One-third of them scored in the lowest-performing category. Indeed, the United States had more students in the bottom group and fewer students in the top group than most other industrialized countries.
  • Different tests, same result. Last year, about 40% of the country’s high school seniors met none of the college readiness benchmarks for English, math, reading, or science. And 70% fell short of meeting the benchmarks for math.
  • And although almost 90% of students graduate from high school, 45% of those same students say they feel unprepared for either college or the workforce—and it’s unlikely they are being overly self-critical.

    International Student Assessment Scores. Orange = the U.S. Grey = the OECD average.
    Source: OECD

What are the problems and can they be fixed? Is it culture, politics, unions, resources? Too little money, too few teachers, too much social media, all or none of the above?

Today’s episode of New Thinking for a New World looks for answers in the Bay area of San Francisco, California. Shawn Benjamin has been the principal of a charter school since 2007, where she and her team have produced student successes instead of student failures. What is their magic?

Listen and tell us what you think about how to provide children the education they deserve and that we need them to have.

Listen to the episode here or find the New Thinking for a New World podcast on a platform of your choice (Apple podcastSpotify, Google podcastYoutube, etc

Shawn Benjamin believes that education opens doors and opportunities for students to have access to the careers and lives they want to live. She spent 16 years as a principal at a Title 1 school that was recognized by the US News and World Report as a high school in the top 1% of schools in the nation for 7 consecutive years.


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