Our Grown-Up Literacy Problem
There is a larger, underreported segment of the American population that falls behind most of our economic competitors, and it’s not our students. Alarmingly, it’s our adults whose abilities in reading, math, and problem-solving rank significantly below the international average.
Do Mayoral Takeovers Work?
Are school boards obstructions to reform instead of its overseers? Do mayors necessarily make better school leaders? And could such a shift in governance come with unseen and unforeseen consequences? The research fails to provide a compelling reason to push for mayoral takeovers as a preferred reform strategy.
Encouraging Parental Involvement
Research verifies that when parents create school-friendly environments at home and communicate with educators, their children tend to benefit. Sketchy communication lines and socioeconomic impediments are major stumbling blocks for schools that aim to increase parental involvement. However, practical solutions are at hand.
Database: Measuring Creativity
Creativity may be a relative newcomer on the industrial world’s wish list for prepared workers, but it has long been valued in teaching and in learning. Researchers are finding that creativity can be clearly defined – and, more importantly – taught.
Database: The Achievement Paradox
Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always tell the whole truth. More students than ever are graduating high school on time. Moreover, many are acquiring the equivalent of two to three more years of learning over their peers of a couple of decades ago. Such progress should not be dismissed.
Evaluating Teachers and Principals
Just like teachers, principals increasingly are being judged by the academic progress their students make. Part of the difficulty in developing useful evaluation tools for principals is the job itself, which is arguably even more complex and nuanced than the work of teachers.
Best Practices for Raising Student Achievement
When leveraged, the practice of limiting goals, establishing important routines, developing a balanced assessment approach, using multiple measures to inform improvement, and empowering teachers and developing leaders can lead to a highly effective system and produce high student achievement in districts and schools.
A Second Look at Zero Tolerance
Leading practitioners insist that zero-tolerance policies must undergo a serious re-evaluation in light of children’s developmental stages as they age and mature. Keeping students’ needs at the center of the policy-making decisions surrounding discipline will help ensure that schools foster academic achievement in safe, nurturing environments.
Is Algebra II the Answer?
How should school leaders decide which math all students need? Researchers still have a lot of work to do to uncover why Algebra II has such predictive power. But none has convincingly shown that it hurts students. For school leaders, perhaps that’s the best lesson to take away.
Professional Development and the Common Core
In conceiving of how to address the demands of the Common Core, districts need to recognize that meeting reform imperatives demands new teacher learning. In order for schools to engage in teacher learning as a vehicle for improvement, school leaders need to know how teachers learn new practices.
Saving Disconnected Youth
Disconnected youth are generally recognized as those between the ages of 16 and 24 who don’t have a job, aren’t in school, and lack a strong support system. In other words, they are not connected to any of the anchors of a functioning society: employment, education, family, or social services.
Doing Teacher Evaluation Right
Rushing to create a new teacher evaluation system won’t do anyone any good, especially students. It’s important to create a teacher evaluation system that accurately identifies those teachers in need of improvement, and provides feedback to all teachers to help them improve. Creating such an evaluation system takes time.
Common Core Backlash
It probably was inevitable that closer examination would reveal some previously unnoticed imperfections. But for school boards and their communities, it’s hard to know whether the good in the Common Core standards is greater than their perceived flaws – or if it’s time for morning-after regrets.
Do Students Need More Time in School?
While the amount of time teachers and students spend in school – a six-and-a-half-hour, 180-day academic calendar -- has remained remarkably constant over the past several decades, the expectations for what students must learn in that time has increased dramatically. There is growing consensus that the current school day is insufficient.
Improving Two-Year College Degree Completion
President Obama has made it a priority for the U.S. to lead the world in college attainment by the year 2020. Improving two-year degree completion will help put the U.S. back to the top of the world college attainment rankings. It could have a significant impact on our unemployment rate, as well.
Math Is Powerful
Young children’s math abilities are far more predictive of their academic achievement throughout their school years than their social or emotional behaviors, neither of which, it turns out, has much effect on later achievement. Math also has a slight edge on literacy in its long-term influence.
U.S. vs. International Students
When you look at international assessments as a whole, you clearly see areas where U.S. students excel, along with areas with a clear need for improvement. While those comparisons in which the U.S. falls short get the majority of attention, here are areas of success that typically do not get the same focus.
Why High School Rigor Matters
NSBA’s Center for Public Education consistently finds that the strength of the high school curriculum predicts a student’s chances of thriving on many measures, including earning higher wages, holding a good job with benefits, and completing a two- or four-year college degree.
A comprehensive teacher evaluation system that includes value-added scores along with other measures of teacher performance provides a powerful tool for districts, and not just for high-stakes personnel decisions like deciding which teachers to lay off or how much teachers are paid. Value-added scores can be extremely helpful for the continuous improvement of all teachers.
Science Literacy and Controversy
Many groups persist in their efforts to have their beliefs acknowledged in the science classroom. Rather than confront unhappy constituents, many state and local policymakers have merely dodged the question. How can public schools both show respect for individuals’ beliefs and provide the science grounding all of our students need and deserve?
Late Graduates vs. GEDs
While graduating on time is best, students are much better off after high school if they graduate late rather than not all. Districts should be given the credit they deserve for keeping up with students who fall behind and stick it out until they earn their high school diploma.
Top 10 List of Public Education Success
Policymakers and pundits have decried “our failing schools” so often it’s become an accepted truth. But the naysayers are wrong. It’s time that we recognize our accomplishments and give our public schools a collective pat on the back. Here is my personal Top 10 list of things we’re doing right.
Qualities of Effective Principals
More than a head disciplinarian or a glorified schedule-maker, the principal of today’s schools is a leader. Principals are second only to teachers in their impact on student achievement. Policymakers who focus on supporting the principal’s role as instructional leader will be supporting what’s best for students as well.
Credit Recovery Explained
Credit recovery programs—described by some as “summer school after school”—are designed to help struggling students graduate. Using many different strategies, often involving online class work, the programs give students who have fallen behind the chance to “recover” credits that otherwise would be lost. No credit recovery definition exists.
It's About Time
Although the data shows that U.S. students do not receive fewer hours of instruction than students in other high-performing nations, it does not necessarily mean that time is unimportant. Research has shown that adding time can be a very effective tool to improve student achievement, particularly for disadvantaged students.
Make Decisions With Data
Effective school leaders are leading through analysis to closely examine how their resources are currently being used, identify where the need is the greatest, and target those resources to where they will produce the greatest return on investment. Data can highlight the right questions to ask and lead schools to the right answers.
Knowing the Labor Market
There are places in the country that can’t find enough workers – not because there aren’t enough people, but because the people available don’t have the right skills. As a school board member, what do you need to do so that your high school graduates have the skills they need in order to get good jobs?