Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An early feast: How it's being done

I devoted today to two things: first preparation for our family's turkey meal and a wonderful book.

How It's Being Done: Urgent Lessons from Unexpected Schools
is a new exploration of the key practices of high poverty, high performance schools. With warm, credible stories, Karin Chenoweth builds her way to an explanation of what lets those schools generate success for students often expected to fail.

In the conclusion, Chenoweth shares a core answer from Molly Bensinger-Lacy, principal at Graham Road Elementary, who said:
The strategies for educating students to high standards are pretty much the same for all kids:
  • Teacher collaboration;
  • A laser-like focus on what we want kids to learn;
  • Formative assessment to see if they learned it;
  • Data-driven instruction;
  • Personal relationship-building
Chenoweth adds two further thoughts to that:
  • "It is important to note that the underlying assumption under Bensinger-Lacy's list is that there is an outside, third-party assessment for schools -in her case, a state testing system- that holds schools accountable for what their students learn."
  • "There is something else that she didn't mention...and that is leadership."
I'm struck by how, in the Chenoweth version, key ideas turn out to have manageable parts. Thus, the balanced assessment approach is there, but understood in three elements: focus on standards, formative assessement, and then (later) the outside assessment. Similarly, the professional learning community concept is found in collaboration, relationships, and leadership.

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