Monday, November 9, 2009

Chamber grades the states

The United States Chamber of Commerce has released a "report card" for all fifty states, including these "grades" for Kentucky:
  • C in school management (includes standards, accountability, and charters, but not assessment)
  • C in finance
  • C in staff hiring and evaluation
  • F in removing ineffective teachers
  • B on data
  • B on pipeline to postsecondary
  • B on technology
Our best result is on the pipeline to postsecondary, where we show strength on requiring a college-ready curriculum, giving statewide college readiness tests, and diplomas with career readiness specialization options.

Our weakest, on removing ineffective teachers, comes from an NCES survey that asked principals which factors they saw as barriers to removing teachers. Kentucky principals were less likely to say that particular things were not barriers than their peers nationwide, as shown in the table below:

The Chamber's report focuses outside the classroom, perhaps expecting that indirect efforts are the best levers to change the direct process of how teachers work with students.

The McKinsey report's conclusion on top school systems across the globe, confirmed by Kentucky's reform experience, convinces me otherwise: the quality of teaching must be addressed directly. For that, the crucial issues are things like teacher preparation, teacher internships, professional development and collaboration, leadership development, leadership practice, intervention when individual students perform weakly (including formative use of assessment results), and intervention when whole schools perform weakly. The Chamber's effort is impressive and the specifics interesting, but the end result is not on the most important track for raising student performance.

As Michael Barber told the Prichard Committee in June, "the only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction."

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!