Steven Singer presents a hypothetical but nutty analogy. He opens this post with a teacher pulling out a gun and shooting a student in the head. The principal hears the gun shot, runs to the classroom, sees the body on the floor, and is about to reprimand the teacher but quiets down and leaves when he realizes that the other students are working diligently. The teacher has used this extraordinary method to encourage students to work harder. Her method is effective. Why mess with success?

This is his commentary on a study that proposes that public schools should absorb the lessons of the no-excuses charter schools. If harsh discipline works for them and produces higher test scores, isn’t that what all schools should do?

Is this what parents want?

Are high scores the goal of education?

I am reminded of something I wrote about a study by Roland Fryer in which he concluded that while bonuses don’t seem to produce higher scores, aversive policies do. For example, pay a teacher $4,000 in the beginning of the school year, and if the teacher’s students don’t get higher test scores, take the money away. That works. I suggested another method that might work, using the aversive method: tell economists that if their predictions are wrong, you will cut off one of their fingers.