Monday, October 23, 2006

Help with answers to the "Now what?" question.

The Center on Innovation and Improvement has a nice collection of research and reports focused on school and district improvement. This site points to recent research on effective practices as well as links to federal programs and support resources around the country.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New agenda for Texas education

Whether one agrees with all of the efforts taken by Texas, it is not hard to see that education leaders are out ahead in most policy areas. Standards-driven reform linked to testing (that improved in quality from the early years of poor quality tests) have sent strong signals to all levels of the educational system. Jim Windham of the Texas Institute for Education Reform draws from a recent policy presentation to lay out his group's agenda:
Enhance educator effectiveness: No education delivery system can be better than the educators in the school building. We need much better and more competitive preparation, certification reform, research-based professional development, effective mentoring, performance-based compensation, value-added evaluation, mandatory remediation and dismissal of ineffective educators.
Raise standards: After 10 years, it is clear that TEKS needs a complete overhaul. The expectations for our kids are too low, there is no grade-level specificity, no progression of rigor from grade to grade and in many instances, the standards are not measurable.
Strengthen accountability: We should phase into a 90 percent proficiency standard for accreditation of a campus, strengthen the consequences for school failure, adopt statewide public school choice, and expand charter school authority with equalized funding and tougher standards.
Refine academic performance assessments: We should adopt value-added evaluation for charters, educator preparation programs and educator compensation; add end of course exams in high school; and connect all assessments to college and workplace readiness expectations.
Finally, we should create a comprehensive agenda for systemic long-term reform for public education that will fulfill the objective that every child in Texas will graduate from high school fully prepared for higher education, the 21st century workplace and responsible citizenship.
This potpourri of efforts attempts to address almost all elements of the production chain for primary and secondary education. The one thing that is not mentioned explicitly is increased accountability of schools of education to train better prepared educators and leaders.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crappy People versus Crappy Systems

In another post by Sutton, there is an important lesson about organizational improvement. As much as school turn-around efforts rely on great leaders, there is a fair body of evidence that even star performers cannot overcome broken systems. One of the concerns I see for school improvement along NCLB lines is that that blinders that focus on reading and math scores may induce district staff for focus on getting leaders into buildings who can turn things around. It may be more important to improve the alignment of curriculum and professional development resources than fix leadership. If it is the crappy system that is getting in the way of success, it is vital that we step back to take a look at the incentives and sanctions inherent in the current system.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Bad assumptions and submarines

Bob Sutton does a great job laying out the problem with pay for performance policies that are sometimes linked to value-added measures at the classroom level. Pay might provide an incentive to a teacher to work harder or smarter, but there are a large number of things that have an impact on classroom level growth that are outside the teacher's control. If we are going to provide incentives at that level, it is crucial that we also ensure that resources are equally allocated and that we don't implement bad tests that force our teachers to teach to low/poor standards.