In writing the three previous Transforming Education posts – in the pursuit of being brief (apparently the rule for blogs) – I have skipped topics I think are important. So here in summary form are my thoughts on some other topics that are part of designing a k-12 system that increases the number of high quality schools (without regard to governance or location) and decreases the number of low quality schools.
• Philanthropy has become a major enabler of particularly urban schools. They too should make a commitment to only fund (also without regard to governance or location) quality schools or start ups that have been vetted for the likelihood of being high quality and only work with high achieving enablers.
• I’m not a big fan of imposing all sorts of intermediate goals/metrics. Without remediation should be the standard and let the schools figure out how to get there. There is no one right way to get high student achievement.
• If we use standardized tests for the performance metrics we need to use the NAEP and ACT. All the state stuff is not rigorous enough as we learned from the most recent NAEP results.
• The goal is every student leaving each school ready for the next level without remediation. But there needs to be a difference between that goal and standards that trigger consequences.The closing standard should be chronically among the worst performing schools. And the standard to earn the right to open schools should be a substantial improvement over what exists in a community today.
• We are going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out the right governance of DPS. What matters more is not who governs, but what are the rules for whoever governs. The most important of which is if you do not turnaround a failing school after a few years, it will close. No option!
• I’m skeptical we know how – anywhere in the country – to turnaround failing schools. But the only chance you have is if you have no union (like New Orleans) or contracts that allow for quality educators to be in school on a long term basis with lots of flexibility on how to deliver teaching and learning. So dealing with hiring, bumping, work rules etc. needs to part of the plan if we are to have any chance of improving low quality schools. I sure wouldn’t open a school without that kind of union agreement.
• I am not a big fan on imposing inputs (community schools, themed schools, longer days, longer hours, etc.) Let the schools and their enablers figure out what approach they want to take to get to the standard.
• We need to care far more about parents being good shoppers, than “good” voters.
• We need to construct a system of producing reliable, real time data aligned with our goals that is open to qualified researchers from any organization.