Sunday, June 14, 2009

Top systems, learning communities, and SB 1 standards

“The notion that external ideas by themselves will result in changes in the classroom and school is deeply flawed as a theory of action.”
Richard Elmore in School Reform from the Inside Out, quoted in How the world's best-performing school systems come out on top.
Teacher development methods are a central part of what the world's best-performing school systems do well. After discussing initial training for new teachers, the McKinsey analysis identifies three major strategies for strengthening current educators:
  • Providing one-on-one coaching where expert teachers observe in classrooms, model strong instruction, and help teachers reflect on their own practice.
  • Making instructional leadership the core role of principals by changing recruitment, training, and work expectations for that key role.
  • Creating a collaborative culture in which teachers regularly learn from one another, sorting through data, revising strategies, and planning lessons in teams
In essence, these highly successful systems rely on versions of professional learning communities. We know that from Kentucky and national research (including blog posts here), and this report adds international confirmation. Teachers change their practice when they receive coherent support on an on-going basis from colleagues, coaches, and school leaders. In contrast, shorter "set-and-get" sessions and "drive-by" workshops do not change results.

As Kentucky moves to higher and clearer standards, how will we equip teachers to meet those standards? Senate Bill 1 says KDE must provide professional development, but it does not offer methods or funding or staffing or vision for that work.

This global report thus offers us an important warning: without school-level, sustained coaching, leadership, and collaboration for our teachers, our students will not meet the new, ambitious standards we are about to create.

McKinsey & Company's report on How the world's best-performing school systems come out on top is available here, and earlier PrichBlog posts on the report are here and here.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!