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Whitehurst: How to Reform Schools? Improve the Curriculum


Effect sizes in research studies of curriculum are "larger, more certain, and less expensive" than education reforms favored by the Obama administration, according to a paper by Grover J. "Russ" Whitehurst, the former research chief of the U.S. Department of Education. He's now the director of the Brown Center on Education at the Brookings Institute.

He makes the case that federal education officials should consider ways to support improvement of the curriculum over such efforts as expanding charter schools and teacher merit-pay programs because research has shown that the impact of the curriculum used has been greater than the impact of charter schooling or merit pay.

My colleague Debbie Viadero has highlighted Whitehurst's arguments over at Inside Research.

Robert Pondiscio of Core Knowledge and Joanne Jacobs also feature the paper on their blogs.


It's no surprise to me that the nature of the curriculum used in classrooms is more significant than the type of school in which the curriculum is taught. Once the classroom door is closed and the teacher is teaching and students are learning, the name of the school doesn't matter a whole lot.

Andrew Pass

Research also shows that increased spending on curriculum development and materials will not resolve the problems in the classroom. The challenge points out the need for accountability and the energy to creatively and effectively utilize that which is available freely(from action research to best practice to proven methods). While increased accountability has become somewhat of a catch phrase for focusing on teacher performance, the bar needs to be raised to require the commitment of adminstration and community, upheld and supported not through micromanaging but through active, reflective, flexible adminstrative support and interdependence.

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