National PTA President Otha Thornton discusses why his organization supports the Common Core, dispelling myths and sharing resources to help parents learn more and support successful implementation of the standards.
Principal Sharon Collins chalks her school’s success up to the ambitious de-tracking effort she launched when she became principal. The school eliminated the lowest-rung courses and urged students into the more challenging AP and IB routes. Key to this strategy was early and sustained support for struggling students. We recently chatted with Collins by phone:
Principal Sharon Collins chalks her school’s success up to the ambitious de-tracking effort she launched when she became principal. The school eliminated the lowest-rung courses and urged students into the more challenging AP and IB routes. Key to this strategy was early and sustained support for struggling students.
We recently chatted with Collins by phone:
Public School Insights: I understand that about ten years ago, Interlake was the lowest-performing school in the district. What changed?
Collins: Well, there were quite a few components that came into it. One of them [is that] the school went through huge remodel. We got an opportunity to reinvent ourselves when we moved into the new building.
When I first came there, I met with every staff member for a 20-minute interview. We talked a lot about curriculum and climate. Those two things were the focus for the school. I instituted a whole committee to work on the ...
With school turnarounds near the top of the administration's agenda, one turnaround model is getting the lion's share of attention: Close the school, get a new principal, hire a new batch of teachers, and start from scratch. Unfortunately, it is not clear that this model is more feasible or effective than any other.
Evidence on effective turnaround strategies is scant, to say the least. To favor any one model is, at least to some degree, to fire a shot in the dark. School reconstitutions will founder if few qualified teachers and leaders are waiting in the wings to replace those who have been dismissed. This is no trivial problem as ...
Many educators speak at a frequency inaudible to pundits' ears. Perhaps that's why pundits almost always prefer broad, simple solutions to the nitty-gritty processes of improving schools.
The venerable education pundit Jay Mathews recently exhibited this tendency in his review of a book about the success of Montgomery County Maryland. Leading for Equity, he opines, is all about process, and process is too often ponderous, impenetrable and uninspiring. For Mathews, exhibit A is the cryptic set of lessons the book outlines in its first chapter. For example: "Implementing a strategy of common, rigorous standards with differentiated resources and instruction can create excellence and equity for all students." Poetry it's not.
Still, I have to agree with Elena Silva's judgment that Matthews' "critique of the book as too process-oriented is wrong. Process has tripped up many a reform, and understanding what sequence of events and efforts leads to change is key to ...
Changing the Graduation Equation in a Texas District: A Conversation with Superintendent Daniel P. King
When Daniel P. King came to the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district in 2007, the district’s dropout rate was double the Texas state average. Now, it is half the state average.
How did the district do it? Dr. King and his colleagues created a College, Career and Technology Academy to steer dropouts--some as old as 25--back onto a path towards graduation. Not only do those students gain the skills and course credits they need to graduate, they also gain college credit along the way. (See a story about the Academy in our success stories section).
King recently spoke with us about the district’s remarkable success.
Public School Insights: What prompted you to create the College, Career & Technology Academy in the first place?
King: I was entering new into the district. I was moving from a small district to a large district, and I was overwhelmed when I saw that the district had a dropout rate that was twice the state average. The prior year had seen approximately 500 dropouts.
When I asked for an analysis of the 500 dropouts from the previous year I found that not only was there the typical freshman bubble (where students don't make it past the ninth grade, get stuck there and ultimately drop out), but there was [also] a relatively new phenomenon that I call the “twelfth grade bubble, ” [caused by] exit testing and rising standards.
In a small district I had dealt with [the dropout problem] very successfully, simply through ...
The Teacher Leaders Network just hosted a fascinating discussion on creativity in the classroom. A number of teachers involved in the discussion zeroed in on a matter that has again been looming large in debates about national standards: The tension between standardization and personalization. They wrote about the challenge of teaching basic information all students need to know "whether they find it creative or not" while engaging students' individual interests.
In other venues, similar discussions have drawn extremists like flies to honey. In the comments section of one top blog, for example, a privatization zealot credited the lack of common standards in private schools with those schools' alleged success: "No one argues that private schools are failing," Of course, we don't exactly have common measures for determining a private school's success or failure. And comparisons of private and public school NAEP scores show essentially no difference between private and public school performance. By why let data cloud ideology?
On the other side, the most immoderate critics of ...
Just in time to help education leaders who must decide how to spend the stimulus money, the Century Foundation is publishing a book on the impact of extra funding on student achievement in poor school districts. The book focuses on New Jersey's Abbott School Districts, which benefited from court-mandated efforts to close funding gaps between poor and wealthy communities.
The book's findings are, by the author's own admission, unsurprising. Citing "fairly dramatic" improvements in New Jersey test scores, the book concludes: ...
Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher reminds us today that school improvement does not necessarily require a death-match between high-profile "reformers" and the education "establishment."
Fisher tells the story of a once struggling elementary school that has dramatically raised the achievement of its overwhelmingly disadvantaged student body: "Broad Acres did this without Rhee's reform tactics: no young recruits from Teach for America, no cash for students who come to class, no linkage of teacher pay to test scores."
In other words, Broad Acres made great strides without any of the capital "R" reforms that dominate national discussion about education. Nor did they make their gains over the dead bodies of recalcitrant teachers, administrators or community members.
What did Broad Acres do? The school fostered on-going faculty collaboration, gave strugging students individual attention, offered engaging out-of-school enrichment activities, and supported students' physical and mental well-being.
This is not to argue that we should abandon important discussions about those capital "R" reforms, which focus mainly on incentives and ...
Just over a week ago, education blogger Corey Bower wondered whether a Barack Obama victory could narrow the achievement gap. Among the reasons he cites: Obama could be a role model for African American students; Obama could unsettle traditional stereotypes that reinforce low achievement among students of color.
One possibility Bower's thoughtful and cautious analysis does not consider: Schools have an opportunity to use Obama's victory as a teachable moment. Without descending to partisan politics, schools can capitalize on a new sense of civic empowerment among students who, rightly or wrongly, have long felt disenfranchised. In her recent Public School Insights interview, Harvard researcher Meira Levinson put it this way: ...
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. ...
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 ...
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