The words "OMB" and "exciting" rarely go in the same sentence, much less "OMB" and "OMG!" Yet on May 18, Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), sent out a memo that could change history. In guidance to executive departments and agencies, the memo asks the entire Executive Branch to use every available means to promote the use of rigorous evidence in decision-making, program administration, and planning. Some of the specific strategies urged by OMB were as follows: • Low-cost evaluations, using routinely collected data. For example, when grants are made to schools to use particular ...


Once upon a time, there was a red-headed fourth grader named Ned. Ned was bored in school, and he didn't get good grades. His mom was mad at him, his teacher pleaded with him, and Ned wanted to please them, but he just couldn't get interested enough in school to put in enough effort to really succeed. I'll come back to red-headed Ned in a moment, but stop for a moment and ask yourself: Aren't you interested in Ned? Isn't focusing on a particular student, even if he's fictional, a lot more interesting than my usual blogs that begin with ...


People of all political persuasions all over the world have reason to mourn Senator Richard Lugar's loss to a Tea-Party candidate in the recent Indiana Republican primary. Senator Lugar is the ranking minority member on the Foreign Relations Committee, where he has long put principle and practicality above partisanship. Yet his defeat matters in education, too. Even though Senator Lugar has never served on an education committee, he has always been interested in education. Before he was elected to the Senate, he was Mayor of Indianapolis and before that, Chairman of the Indianapolis School Board. But beyond this history, I ...


On a recent trip to London, I visited Cayley Primary School, a high-poverty elementary school that has been using our Success for All* whole-school reform approach for several years. The principal, Lissa Samuel, has been at this same school for many years before and after it adopted Success for All. She is proud of the achievement gains, which include a jump from 30% to 80% of students passing sixth-grade reading assessments. During our conversation, though, she talked more about how disciplinary problems, fights, and stealing had completely disappeared. Success for All has very good approaches to classroom management and social-emotional ...


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. ...


One of the criticisms often leveled at evidence-based reform in education is this: Programs may be proven effective in controlled experiments, but on a larger scale, they won't be implemented with care and therefore won't work. I have seen many awful implementations of programs that have been successful elsewhere and I agree that this is a problem. Proven programs don't implement themselves. How can we ensure widespread, effective, intelligent use of proven programs? After many years of wrestling with this question, I have a set of principles for ensuring high-quality implementations of proven programs, which I will now reveal to ...


The history of technology in education is one of schools running to catch up with technology developments outside of school. Learning from our past follies in this area, perhaps now it is time we anticipate how ubiquitous computer access can be achieved and then exploited to benefit all children. Computers have been used in schools since the early 1970s, and today there are at least a few in virtually every school, and most students now have access at home. But, the fact that not all students have their own computers at home limits instructional uses of computers in as well ...


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