April 2012 Archives

Everyone loves a good list of things to do to get desired outcomes. Go into any bookstore and you'll see 10 habits, eight steps, 12 secrets, to accomplish all sorts of wonders. What's nice about lists is that they are easy to understand and they appear finite: implement the "seven-step plan to weight loss" and you're done. In trying to improve struggling schools, government likes lists too, and so do educators. Comprehensive school reform in the 1990's required schools to implement nine elements (e.g. curriculum, professional development, parent involvement). Reading First had its list of five elements of reading ...


In America, there is no shortage of ideas for improving education at every level, pre-k to college. These ideas fall into two categories: Federal, state, and district policy, and school and classroom improvement. Proposals for reforming educational policies almost always focus on issues far from classroom practice: governance, standards, assessment, funding, accountability, certification, district organization. Everything in this list is important, but none of them really matters unless classroom instruction greatly improves. My belief is that instead of starting from large-scale issues and then hoping that solving big funding, governance, and accountability issues will somehow improve daily teaching, we should ...


Among the many objections I sometimes hear to the concept of evidence-based reform in education is a concern that buying into evidence entails buying into stodgy, boring, top-down instruction. I think these concerns carry over from concerns about instruction driven by standardized testing and accountability. But evidence-based education and test-driven education are very different. Evidence (and evidence-based reform) are entirely neutral on the nature of teaching. Whatever works is what is valued. The distinction between teaching driven by accountability and teaching informed by evidence is crucial. Using test scores to evaluate teachers and schools, at least as defined by NCLB, ...


Over the past 40 years, I've visited an awful lot of schools. Usually, I'm visiting high-poverty elementary or secondary schools that are doing well. I love visiting schools, I love the kids, the teachers, and the administrators, who are all doing their best to create a culture of success and caring that is often a haven in a depressed neighborhood. Whenever I visit schools, I try to spend most of my time in classrooms, of course. I often pick out three kids at random, one near the front, one in the middle, and one at the back of the class. ...


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