Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Top systems: teaching quality or failure

The McKinsey & Co. analysis of the world's top school systems begins with an analysis of past efforts in multiple countries, including:
• increased funding
• lowered class sizes
• standards, assessment, and accountability programs
• decentralization initiatives that include both school councils and charter schools
• and "tens of thousands of initiatives aimed at improving the quality of education in the nation’s schools."

The heart of the report is the conclusion that, as separate efforts, those approaches have not worked. Building teaching quality has to be the central strategy:
We found that high-performing school systems, though strikingly different in construct and context, maintained a strong focus on improving instruction because of its direct impact on student achievement.
I think the argument is that the other changes do not work alone. Many of them are in place in the top systems:
These systems all ensure that they put in place the necessary foundational conditions such as rigorous standards and assessments, clear expectations, differentiated support for teachers and students, and sufficient funding, facilities and other core resources.
For Kentucky, therefore, the key point may not be that we were wrong to work on all of those things, but that we were wrong to think that those efforts could, indirectly, give teachers the skills and confidence to raise student performance.

The central argument of the report is that, to get substantially higher achievement, we need a substantially stronger, far more direct approach to teaching quality, focused on the key drivers of recruiting the right people, equipping them well, and getting each child consistently strong instruction.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!