Berliner and Glass wrote an interesting article on why a program that sparkles in Maine may fizzle out in Montana. They ask the question “If we can’t depend on program transferability, what’s a leader to do?”. Do read the whole piece, but they conclude with some “Ideas That (May) Travel Well“. I actually do think that the (may) is indeed important.
Here are a few pet ideas that we’ve seen work in one place or another that might offer alternative approaches to school improvement:
- Stop looking for answers to local problems in Scandinavia or Asia. The United States is neither Finland nor Singapore, and it’s a lot more complex than either.
- Redraw school attendance areas to achieve socioeconomic balance, and support high-quality early childhood education in those areas.
- Recognize that teachers work in teams and evaluate them accordingly. Make sure the evaluation system has no consequences for teachers associated with student test scores but does include multiple classroom observations and an evaluation of classroom artifacts—tests, papers, projects, and the like.
- Eliminate tracking in grades K–6, and eliminate grade retention (“flunking”) completely.
- Make sure that no school day for students starts earlier than 8:30 a.m.
- Provide libraries staffed with librarians and counseling offices staffed with enough counselors that they can know students personally.
- If you don’t like your reading scores, find ways to have students read more, and forget most other systems that claim to improve reading.