A very relevant report: “Interesting cities: five approaches to urban school reform”

As more and more people are living in cities, new challenges (and opportunities) rise – also for education. This makes this report I found – again via @dylanwilliam – very relevant. In their report Alex Elwick and Tony McAleavy examine and compare the approaches used to improve school standards in five diverse cities around the world: London, New York, Dubai, Rio de Janeiro and Ho Chi Minh City.

What did they find?

Key elements seem to be:

  • appointing or electing a key figure to drive through a change agenda;
  • using ‘big data’ to identify and intervene where students are in danger of falling behind;
  • forging strong coalitions between parents, teachers and professional bodies;
  • making teaching a career of choice: adopting innovative ways of attracting talented people into teaching;
  • increasing both accountability and support for teachers with improved training;
  • applying pressure for change in underperforming schools;
  • ensuring school-to-school collaboration, pairing strong schools with weaker schools, helping the latter improve.

The researchers do note that:

All five cities represent hugely different societies in terms of economic development, politics and culture. We chose these cities because each place seemed to have a promising story to tell about policy leading to improved quality outcomes for schools. The global education debate has rightly moved to a focus on quality and this is where the hard work really starts. Improving learning outcomes is difficult and it is easy to be pessimistic and defeatist. However, each of these stories provide grounds for optimism that the right choice of reform policy can make a real difference.

The report breaths a bit too much ‘innovation and disruption’ to my personal taste and some of the key elements can tast a bit GERM-like, even zombie-ideas as merit-pay can be found in the report without too much criticism – the authors write that the evidence is mixed – well, I beg to differ. Attracting more and better teachers luckily is often more about better pay and more opportunities for development and support.

Still the insights can be illuminating for many cities around the globe but do note that it’s rather about inspiration than copy paste formulas.

You can download the report here.

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