Thursday, December 16, 2010

Funding, curriculum, teaching: Darling-Hammond on high-achieving nations

In the search to understand countries with stronger education results than our own, Linda Darling-Hammond argues that “high flyers all have equitable funding, shared curriculum, and quality teaching.”

In the new issue of American Educator, Dr. Darling-Hammond writes:
These more equitable investments made by high-achieving nations are also steadier and more focused on key elements of the system: the quality of teachers and teaching, the development of curriculum and assessments that encourage ambitious learning by both students and teachers, and the design of schools as learning organizations that support continuous reflection and improvement. With the exception of a few states with enlightened long-term leadership, the United States, by contrast, has failed to maintain focused investments in any of these essential elements.
The result is that the United States is standing still while more focused and steadfast nations move rapidly ahead.
With ample footnotes, she goes on to argue that Finland, Singapore, and South Korea all:

  • “Fund schools adequately and equitably, and add incentives for teaching in high-needs schools.”
  • “Organize teaching around national standards and a core curriculum that focus on higher-order thinking, inquiry, and problem solving through rigorous academic content.”
  • “Eliminated examination systems that had once tracked students into different middle schools and restricted access to high school.”
  • “Use assessments that require in-depth knowledge or content and higher-order skills.”
  • “Invest in strong teacher education programs that recruit top students, completely subsidize their extensive training programs, and pay them a stipend while they learn to teach.”
  • “Pay salaries that are equitable across schools and competitive with other careers, generally comparable to those of engineers.”
  • “Support ongoing teacher learning by ensuring mentoring for beginning teachers and providing 15 to 25 hours a week for all teacher to plan collaboratively and engage n analyses of student learning, lesson study, action research, and observations of one another’s classrooms, which help them continually improve their practice.”

Her article provides rich details for each strategy and important options for future state and national education strategies.  I recommend the full document highly as a starting point for thinking about 2011 and beyond.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!