The OECD has released the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results. Visit our collection of resources to help you interpret them in context.
Some radical reform zealots have used America's standing in international comparisons of student achievement to justify all manner of miracle-cure education reform propositions. (Abolish school boards! Abolish school districts! Abolish school buildings!)
Cooler heads have looked beyond mere rankings to examine practices common to the most successful countries. Most recently, Achieve, the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers released a report on such practices.
As I read it, Benchmarking for Success offers some important (if implicit) lessons for reformers:
- Beware miracle cures that have little to do with what gets taught and how it gets taught;
- Seek coherence rather than erratic, disjointed interventions;
- Build public schools' capacity for success.
The report offers more specific recommendations for creating a world-class public education system. Here are a few highlights: ...
Dr. Susan B. Neuman has received much media attention recently as the apostate former Bush administration official who publicly opposes No Child Left Behind in its current form. As the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education who presided over NCLB's early implementation, she certainly made waves by arguing that schools alone cannot close achievement gaps.
But Neuman has received less attention for her affirmative vision of what we can do to improve poor students' odds dramatically. Her new book, Changing the Odds for Children at Risk, lays out "seven essential principles of educational programs that break the cycle of poverty." On Wednesday, she talked to me about her book and her thoughts on current education policy.
The book uses extensive research on child development and effective programs to make the case for responsible, substantive investment in areas such as early care and education, comprehensive family supports, and after-school. (Not surprisingly, Neuman was an early signer of the "Broader, Bolder Approach to Education," a manifesto urging investment in more comprehensive supports for students' well-being.)
Neuman's thoughts on accountability deserve particular attention. She has famously criticized NCLB's accountability regime for emphasizing sanctions over support, but she is no critic of rigorous accountability. Rather, she argues that accountability structures should ensure sound program goals, adequate resources, timely course corrections, and strong outcomes.
You can download the entire interview here or listen to six minutes of interview highlights:
The usually astute Alexander Russo really misses the mark in a recent article criticizing initiatives such as community schools. In the most recent issue of Scholastic Administrator, he argues that such initiatives' focus on out-of-school factors like health care and family well being distract from schools' fundamental academic mission.
Russo writes that such initiatives "shift attention away from classrooms" and successful school improvement efforts. "Now is not the time to abandon these efforts," he intones, knocking down the same straw man so many others have toppled before him.
Advocates for community schools have no intention of abandoning school improvement efforts. They clearly describe student success in the classroom as a primary goal of their strategy. They also marshal solid evidence that their approach improves student learning outcomes. ...
If there was ever a time to shore up support for poor students' families, it is now.
Newspapers across the country are reporting a spike in homelessness that could have dire consequences for schools in the nation's most distressed communities. (For a sampling of recent stories on the issue, see here, here, here, here and here.)
Homeless students who worry about where they'll sleep at night, or where they'll find their next meal, have that much less energy to devote to math or reading. Many move from school to school as their parents shuttle between shelters and temporary living arrangements with friends or family. Climbing school mobility rates depress student achievement. ...
Cheryl Cook-Kallio puts her money where her mouth is. After decades of teaching civics in American public schools, she won a seat on the Pleasanton, California City Council in 2006. Two years later, her inspiring work as a teacher of civics, government and American history earned her the American Civic Education Award from the Alliance for Representative Democracy. She recently told us about her school.
As an elected official, Cook-Kallio lives what she teaches, and she inspires her students to live what they learn. She and her colleagues at Irvington High School in California push their students to become civically engaged both inside and outside of school.
Irvington students research and solve local problems, raise money for struggling communities, simulate Congressional hearings and explore diverse political perspectives on critical issues. They understand the Constitution and its direct bearing on their lives. These efforts are an integral part of a challenging academic curriculum, not just extracurricular activities for an ambitious few. ...
Several commentators have worried that many state plans to achieve universal student proficiency by 2014--a requirement of No Child Left Behind--resemble balloon mortgages. Soon after the law passed in 2002, many states required relatively small student gains in the first years, demanding most of the gains after 2008. The predictable result: More and more schools are falling short of their targets as the 2014 deadline looms. We're told to brace ourselves for the Fannie Mae of NCLB. ...
A growing chorus of voices is calling for federal education policies that support, rather than seek to prescribe, good practice. Groups like the Forum for Education and Democracy, the National Education Association and the "Broader, Bolder Approach" Coalition have published manifestos on the federal role in education. We at the Learning First Alliance joined that chorus on Monday, when we published our own statement on the federal role.
A common thread in these manifestos is that schools generally do their best work if given the capacity to succeed. Yesterday, I came across two vivid examples of this point. ...
Today, the Learning First Alliance (LFA), which sponsors Public School Insights, released a statement calling for a new federal role in supporting success for all American public school children. Transforming the Federal Role in America's Public Schools offers a framework to help a new president, administration, and Congress align federal policies with the needs of America's more than 50 million public school students.
The statement emphasizes support for students in need, as well as more effective and transparent accountability among key players in the system. The principles also call for greater collaboration among the federal government, states and districts. ...
Every couple of weeks, we give our readers an update on new stories we've published about public schools and school districts that are succeeding against tough odds. Here's our most recent batch:
- A Middle School Aims for a Blue Ribbon in Alabama's Black Belt, 10/3/2008
- An Elementary School is Taking Flight in Queens, 9/25/2008
- Partnership of Expertise and Knowledge is Empowering Teachers in a Virginia School District, 9/17/2008
- A Full-Service Elementary School is healing students and communities in New York, 9/9/2008 ...
It took Checker Finn at the Fordham Foundation about a nanosecond to respond to the Community Agenda with an entirely over-the-top attack on community schools. Finn, whom friends and foes alike often respect for the integrity of his ideas, has apparently become a complete fantasist. In defiance of all evidence, he calls the community school idea "gooey and emotional" (it actually rests on sound evidence). He also describes it as an attempt "to turn the spotlight away from cognitive learning" (it actually marshals community resources in support of cognitive learning.) This is conspiracy theory, not argument.
And it gets worse. Finn believes that school-based services for parents--such as career counseling, parenting classes and medical services--merely "coddle" parents or "indulge [them] in their shortcomings." Where's the indulgence in helping parents find jobs, find health care or support their children in school? These services actually bring families into school buildings and empower parents to support their children's success. Simply telling parents to shape up ship out is hardly a promising alternative. ...
A VISION FOR GREAT SCHOOLS
On this website, educators, parents and policymakers from coast to coast are sharing what's already working in public schools--and sparking a national conversation about how to make it work for children in every school. Join the conversation!