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ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show

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Enhancing Student Achievement

by Charlotte Danielson

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Political Context of School Improvement

We can, wherever and whenever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven't so far.
. Ron Edmonds (1969)

It has been 20 years since the publication of A Nation at Risk sounded the alarm regarding the poor quality of America's schools. Those years have been filled with much hand-wringing (“where have we gone wrong?”); confirmation (international studies of achievement that show U.S. students scoring, at best, at about the middle of the pack for industrial nations); defensiveness (“schools are not as bad as all that”); and surveys of opinion (showing parents to be much more satisfied with their children's schools than are the college professors who inherit the students or the employers who hire them). Many policy solutions have been recommended, and some have even been implemented, including content standards and assessments for students—sometimes with serious consequences for nonachievement; increased testing for teachers entering the profession, with sanctions on the colleges that prepare them; and school report cards and “league tables,” published in newspapers, that show the relative success of different schools within a district or state. Every recent U.S. president has made education a top priority, and virtually all candidates for political office have policy recommendations to address the problem, as they interpret it. Education, in other words, is on the public radar screen as it has not been in a generation.


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