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| Volume 67 | Number 7
Table of Contents
The author looks at school reform in light of his experiences documenting effective public education in classrooms across the United States. Observing in an inner-city 1st grade classroom, he sees a teacher who is knowledgeable, resourceful, and particularly effective with her students. He notes that none of the current high-profile reform ideas would explain or enhance her expertise. What motivates her is a complex mix of personal values and a drive for competence, which lead her to treat her students in certain ways and continue to improve her skills. School reform needs to capitalize on such motivators. The author suggests that we would do well to channel the financial and human resources spent on the vast machinery of high-stakes testing into a robust, widely distributed program of professional development, such as those offered by the National Science Foundation and the National Writing Project. Enriched, widely available professional development would substitute a human capital model of school reform for the current test-based technocratic one. In addition, any policy initiative needs to take into account these qualities of effective classrooms: safety, respect, student responsibility for learning, intellectual rigor, ongoing support, and concern for students' welfare.
In an interview with Educational Leadership, Frederick M. Hess talks about
greenfield schooling—a policy approach that attempts to knock down the formal and informal barriers that stand in the way of innovation in education. Greenfield schooling, he explains, "doesn't imagine that we should go around razing districts or schools or taking resources, willy-nilly, away from current operations and just handing them over to anybody. What it suggests is a mindset in which we're focused on creating opportunities for problem solvers to solve problems."
Despite the last few decades of intensive school reform efforts, "even the most ardent reformers must admit that public schools and student learning have improved only slightly, if at all," writes Wolk. The reason for this lack of results, he asserts, is our refusal to question the assumptions on which our education system is based. Chief among these is the notion that we can close achievement gaps and improve learning by holding all students to the same "rigorous" curriculum standards. Wolk advocates a different direction—creating innovative schools that put individual student needs at the center of education. He describes three schools that exemplify the kind of personalized education that will lead to true school improvement: The Met in Rhode Island, New Country School in Minnesota, and Urban Academy in New York.
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Paul E. Barton
In an education system in which the federal government has no constitutional role in education, the United States has long flirted with the idea of injecting broader national control into education policy. The push to create national standards gained momentum in March of 2009 when a coalition led by the National Governors Association and the National Council of Chief State School Officers got education officials in 49 states on board and drafted standards for what U.S. high school graduates should be capable of in math and science. Barton directs his article to educators who are deciding where they stand on such standards. He discusses the varying arrangements people envision when they speak of "national standards," and poses questions and problems likely to arise in pursuing such commonality. Barton reviews the tremendous variety that permeates our education landscape: in instructional content, state performance standards, and levels of student achievement.
Deborah Meier, William H. Schmidt, Chester E. Finn Jr. and Phillip Schlechty
Educational Leadership invited five leaders in education policy to answer the question, "Would adopting national standards improve U.S. education or take it in the wrong direction?" Deborah Meier, William H. Schmidt, Phil Schlechty, Chester E. Finn Jr., and Yong Zhao weigh in on this question. Meier, Schlechty, and Zhao caution that national standards are a harmful idea; Schmidt and Finn speak in support of standards.
Susan B. Neuman
After-school programs are becoming an increasingly vital part of the education landscape. They offer a mixture of homework help, snacks, art activities, sports, and field trips to children ages 6–14; they bridge formal and informal learning through community-based organizations, museums, universities, and clinics. Good after-school programs give children opportunities to solve problems, focus on teamwork, nurture children's skills and talents, and offer choices. The most successful programs offer new learning opportunities, promote mastery in a given activity, foster positive relationships with the host school and community, have qualified site coordinators, and have strong partnerships with sponsoring organizations.
Clarence Edwards Middle School, a high-poverty school in Boston, has experienced substantial gains in student achievement since implementing expanded learning time. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus dollars are boosting the expanded learning time model because federal regulations identify "increased learning time" as a core innovation that schools must use for turnaround and transformation. Currently, schools with expanded learning time add, on average, 25 percent more time each year; 20 percent of such schools have lengthened the school year as well. Research suggests that expanded learning time should primarily be deployed in high-poverty schools, with the most compelling case at the middle school level. The author offers 10 keys that are crucial to a successful implementation of expanded learning time for disadvantaged students.
Because of the growing availability of open-source information online, high schools' traditional role as transmitters of content knowledge is becoming obsolete. Coughlin envisions two possible future scenarios. In one scenario, most students will gain knowledge independently in community learning centers and high schools will be relegated to certification mills that document students' mastery of the curriculum and provide remediation and support for those students who are not capable of working independently. In the second scenario, high schools' role will be to involve students in rich, authentic, collaborative work that builds essential 21st century skills. Coughlin states that this scenario "is being developed today in a few cutting-edge schools across the United States."
Nancy Hoffman and Michael Webb
Among those concerned with high school reform, early college is emerging as an effective strategy for improving the outcomes for high school students. In this article, Nancy Hoffman and Michael Webb explore how early college can benefit students from at-risk backgrounds, particularly black and Latino males. Early college programs enable these students to earn college credits while still in high school, often by taking classes on a college campus. Participating students have demonstrated increased confidence and have begun to see themselves as college goers.
Curtis J. Bonk
Many people only see the benefits of online learning for dancers, athletes, and other performers or for those affected by some type of crisis, such as a hurricane or a flu pandemic. Online learning, however, offers far wider benefits. Online high schools, such as the Indiana University High School, serve students with varying needs. In the United States alone, more than a million people are currently learning online. The author's We-All-Learn framework—with its 10 openers or technological opportunities— attempts to make sense of the vast array of Web-based learning opportunities possible.Three openers discussed are Web searching in the world of e-books, e-learning and blended learning, and real-time mobility and portability.
Many people only see the benefits of online learning for dancers, athletes, and other performers or for those affected by some type of crisis, such as a hurricane or a flu pandemic. Online learning, however, offers far wider benefits. Online high schools, such as the Indiana University High School, serve students with varying needs. In the United States alone, more than a million people are currently learning online. The author's We-All-Learn framework—with its 10 openers or technological opportunities— attempts to make sense of the vast array of Web-based learning opportunities possible.
Three openers discussed are Web searching in the world of e-books, e-learning and blended learning, and real-time mobility and portability.
Judy Harris Helm, Steven Turckes and Ken Hinton
Peoria Public Schools in Illinois is replacing old schools with new community learning centers designed with 21st century learning in mind. Opening in the fall of 2010, these two schools will serve high-poverty students from birth through 8th grade, as well as the local community. The school's architecture features school-within-a-school "village" designs, modular classrooms, and acoustic- and light-sensitive materials to improve students' learning opportunities. An emphasis on environmentally friendly, sustainable materials will encourage student engagement in 21st century causes.
Seale-Collazo describes how a group of elementary-level educators in San Juan, Puerto Rico, inspired by one public school's success with using the Montessori method, committed to creating Montessori classrooms in their schools. Teachers from 11 public schools made a two-year commitment to become certified in teaching Montessori, their principals agreed to support their efforts, and the Puerto Rican Department of Education authorized release time and funding to make such training possible. In the 2006–07 school year, these teachers introduced the Montessori method into their classrooms even as they continued their intensive training in teaching with Montessori. The initiative is spreading, with 50 more teachers signing up to receive Montessori training. The author describes how the teachers' classrooms have changed since implementing this method, and how they have overcome obstacles to incorporating Montessori into traditional schools.
Jean Johnson, Jon Rochkind and Amber Ott
Looking back on their high school experiences, young adults give the guidance counseling system "stunningly poor reviews," write the authors of this article. Using data from recent surveys of young people conducted by Public Agenda, the article describes a guidance system in which one-half of all students believe their guidance counselor sees them as "just another face in the crowd." Other research shows that high school guidance counselors carry heavy student loads and are expected to perform a wide range of other duties. The authors suggest that as a first step, schools improve student-counselor ratios, relieve counselors of other duties, and improve counselors' preparation and training. More important, they suggest that "the time has come to ask broader, more basic questions about how schools help students plan for their future and what roles counselors, teachers, and others should play in that enterprise."
Robert J. Marzano
Tracy A. Huebner
William M. Ferriter
Despite schools' best efforts, high school graduates often find themselves unprepared for college. Such students often end up taking multiple remedial classes or even dropping out. Officials at Amesbury High School and Northern Essex Community College in Massachusetts wanted to give these students a head start on college. Amesbury already offered several dual enrollment and advanced placement courses, but these were dominated by the school's highest-performing students. School officials decided to reach out to students who were just sliding by. They enrolled students from the middle two quartiles in a dual enrollment program that enabled them to earn nine college credits in 10th grade. The classes are cotaught by a high school teacher and a community college professor, have a low student/teacher ratio, and spread a semester's worth of learning out over a whole year. By the time they graduate from high school, students can earn as many as 30 college credits.
Susan Catapano and Jenny E. Gray
In a partnership with the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Dewey International Studies Elementary School opened its doors on Saturdays to provide additional hands-on learning for students at Dewey and preservice teachers at the university. Saturday school is an eight-week program in which preservice teachers plan the instruction, which is project-based and experiential. Dewey students were excited by the fun educational experiences, and the university students gained valuable practice hours.
Although the grade-level model of organizing student progress is useful, it has serious implications for students who don't fit the proscribed timeline. Reforms aimed at solving the problem of students failing grades or dropping out altogether, Naiditch claims, focus on getting students to perform "at grade level," without ever considering that the grade-level model itself may have harmful effects on learning. Naiditch describes an alternative to the grade-level system that's currently being used successfully in 11 percent of Brazil's pre-high school-level schools: learning cycles. In learning cycle schools, students move through three cycles of three years each, keeping the same teacher and classmates throughout all three years. The content students must master in the first cycle roughly corresponds to the content traditionally learned in 1st through 3rd grade; content learned in the second cycle corresponds to that learned in 4th through 6th grade; and learning in the third cycle corresponds to 7th through 9th grade. The three cycles correspond to the age groupings of 6–8, 9–11, and 12–14, but students who are at the same point in their learning are placed together, regardless of age. Naiditch describes elements of this approach that make it work, particularly a flexible system of three "shifts" per school day and learning labs, in which struggling students receive intensive help.
Eleni Natsiopoulou and Vicky Giouroukakis
Today, it has become nearly impossible for a single individual to properly administer and lead a school. One alternative approach to school governance—the democratic and distributed leadership model—may be a more viable approach. The model promotes staff members' full participation in key decision-making and implementation processes as well as full accountability. Teachers at a large, diverse Greek high school that uses the model have contracted to collectively administer the school. The principal's main duty is to coordinate the teachers' decisions and actions. Because school leadership roles are reassigned each year, all faculty members have the opportunity to assume a variety of administrative duties. The democratic and distributed leadership model advances the efficient implementation of decisions, maximizes the range of knowledge and experience that go into school administration, makes all key administrative decisions visible to all, holds everyone accountable for the effective management of the school, promotes harmonious administration, cultivates the civic goals of schooling, and may likely increase teacher retention.
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