Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Wrong Ideas

There are a set of concepts being pushed by the education reform movement and the legislators to which they make contributions.  We see this movement across the country, with elements coming from the US Department of Education as requirements/assurances of applying for competitive grants.

The trouble is these are the wrong ideas.  We should, instead, look to the schools and districts that outperform their demographics to how to improve schools.  The education reform crowd says that teachers are the problem out of one side of their mouth, while talking about how great teachers make a difference from the other side.  Beating down the very people charged with improving performance just doesn't seem like a good idea.

When we look to those schools and districts making significant strides, we see collaboration, not caustic confrontation.  I recently spent time in two buildings, but three schools, in a different district.

The first building was an elementary school with about 25% free and reduced lunch.  They've instituted a continuous classroom improvement model.  Although their performance was pretty good, they've shown system improvement under the new model.  In other words a student will perform better the longer the student is in the school.

The second school is contained in the same building as the first.  They have about 55% free and reduced lunch.  They've implemented the same model and are also starting to see system improvement.

The third building has 88% free and reduced lunch.  It's an older building in an older part of the town.  What one might expect in a building with this high a free and reduced lunch is not what you find.  The school has an active parent volunteer group and uses the same classroom improvement model as the other two schools.  It's performance isn't as high, but much higher than one might expect.  The system improvements are considerable, especially considering the mobility in this school.

Are any of these schools implementing stuff from the reform crowd?  No.   

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