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Top Referee Equipment Sites. There are some excellent examples of effective teacher evaluation strategies such as those in San Jose Unified or San Juan Unified in California where teachers have helped design and implement the programs. When there is teacher buy-in and evaluation is embedded in a comprehensive school improvement effort and the participation of teacher leaders at the school, the rates of dismissal or resignations of the weaker teachers is actually higher.

Conversely, having principals spend an inordinate amount of time and paperwork conducting multiple classroom visits of every teacher for purposes of formal evaluation severely hampers their more productive role of organizing a learning school. There are many more issues which could be discussed, but I hope that this commentary helps illuminate areas of agreement, areas needing further discussion, and areas that are still in dispute. It is nearly impossible for schools and teachers to effectively teach the ambitious and active curriculum and instructional shifts envisioned by common core and its cousins if teachers are isolated in schools and not members of effective school teams.

Of course, teachers must make individual efforts and receive support to improve their craft. But, even more important, schools need to become cooperative learning institutions which are continuously getting better at getting better. Our best practitioners, educational leaders, and researchers are beginning to address coherence issues and what can states or districts do to encourage a comprehensive approach centered on instructional improvement. Yet this crucial element of improvement strategies—the potential power of the school-site team focused on instructional improvement—has been under-emphasized by many reformers.

That is changing in many charter organizations and traditional public schools where professional learning communities have become wide-spread.

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Hattie found that charter schools, teacher evaluation, and merit pay strategies all resulted in minimal effects many multiples lower than these high pay-off engagement activities. Unfortunately, at present only a small percentage of school-site teams are effective by being highly-focused on instruction and are bolstered by teachers displaying a willingness to change classroom behavior. Further, not many schools and districts pursue a coherent approach. Making teams productive by being part of a more comprehensive strategy is essential but complex.

Educators and researchers are just beginning to appreciate these next necessary steps in school improvement Implementation 2. Moreover, developing state and district policies to promote coherence is in its infancy. Many traditional school district leaders still follow the dubious approach of heavy reliance on test-based accountability by top-down pressure, are hampered by bureaucratic inertia and politics, adopt single-shot strategies, or are not willing to shift management philosophy and organization to a more balanced approach.

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Many charters follow a simplistic model of instruction, philosophy, or management which relies on churning through lower-paid new teachers and neglects long-term team-building. Some are under the control of martinets, or have terrible working conditions for staff and suffer extremely high attrition rates and low morale.

This book is a must read for what it actually takes to improve instruction at the school and district level and where things go wrong. It also includes the latest research on these issues and suggests further avenues of investigation. Even though the context is middle grade math using a more constructivist math program, the lessons learned apply to any proposed strategy for improvement or use of materials.

There still seems to be a strong commitment by reformers to charters as a major and necessary component of improvement efforts.


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There are some excellent charters my favorites in California are the Aspire network and High Tech High. Charters should be an important element in school improvement efforts—as centers of energy for ambitious practitioners, as lighthouses for innovation, and as providing parents with more choices. Yet, they are not a panacea capable of single-handedly improving or replacing traditional public school and often become the exclusive recipient of reform fervor to the detriment of other essential strategies. On the whole they do no better than traditional public schools and even when some subset performs better, the effect size is minuscule.

A steady stream of embezzlement and self-enrichment stories cannot be good for the charter movement. One continuing area of contention is whether or how much districts and the state can take into account the financial burden on a district of extensive charter expansion. It may be that charters receive less money from the state than traditional public school students there is conflicting research on that issue but, whatever they receive, at some point the financial pressure on districts harms the education of the remaining students.

As important is the public interest in giving each student the choice in how they are going to live their lives by offering them a broad course of study to expand their perspectives regardless of a more restrictive view of their parents such as anti-evolution, anti-democratic values, or anti-vaccination views.

Moreover, one choice available to parents should be enhancing their local school. Most parents, even in low-performing schools like their local school as an important community asset, and want the choice of improving that school and not being forced to apply to a charter. Many charter advocates focus on parents who want to leave but ignore the needs of parents who want to stay. Finally, there are many ways of enhancing parent and student choice—magnet schools, schools within schools, etc.

In Los Angeles Unified, for example, magnet schools substantially outperform charters. A fair policy should seek compromises in these various and often conflicting points of view. A final area of dispute is the efficacy of recovery districts or a massive shift to charters and vouchers. Some of you now agree that the alternative approach of achievement districts or state takeovers converting low-performing schools to charters such as the one in Tennessee has not been successful.

At any rate, it is gratifying to see a willingness of the reform folks to look at both excellent charters and excellent traditional schools as exemplars of quality.

get link One of the most galling attitudes of many reformers was a tendency to only use excellent charters as exemplars regrettably, sometimes using bogus examples and neglect the large number of excellent traditional public schools, districts, or states who exhibit the same qualities. Both types should be exemplars for the rest.

So then what? For every Elk Grove and Long Beach there are a complacent districts, it seems to me. Mike, thanks for the kind comments. You can post this and edit it. Most want to do better but are hampered by the wrong philosophy, management style, or lack of know-how. The new Gates project is attempting to put them in networks devoted to improvement and improvement science. We also need some deep thought on what states or someday at the national level can do from a policy perspective to help push them in the right direction.

To the extent that policy people across the board and key educational leaders legitimize the comprehensive and coherent point of view I described we will attract more converts. I am sending you and the group a short, more detailed statement on what needs to be done which you probably will like. I am also going to send out a short statement on charters which will may be more controversial.

Both are additionally listed below. The evidence is very strong that urban charters—which are the majority of them—outperform their district counterparts, and are getting better over time. So keep em coming! Mike, I know you are on vacation but if you get a chance please give me a call at or let me know of a convenient time and number to call you to discuss what is below. Thus many practitioners are given an excuse not to change, adopt a counter-productive philosophy, or are too confused to fight bureaucratic inertia.

Here is an outline of a proposed model which takes into account the many initiatives in your comments and my response and organizes them to clarify the focus of each strategy. For a full explication of this point of view see www. The key is to make improving classroom instruction the primary objective of reform efforts.

Classroom instruction covers the interaction of teachers and students in the classroom which includes such areas as;. Each initiative should view themselves as part of a larger strategic approach to building capacity to improve:. How to get all these efforts to cohere and be part of a strategic school improvement plan should be a major component of school improvement efforts in the country. Examples of these providers are county and state educational entities, university initiatives and subject matter projects, district networks and collaboratives, professional development and district improvement providers, and direct services by union, administrator, board member, parent-teacher organizations.

State and national governmental entities can provide policies consistent with a strategic build and support approach. The latter four provide information and best practice ideas consistent with that approach. One goal is to get a critical mass of these large number of players at the different levels to adopt a similar build and support message, use best practices appropriate to their level and mission to help those below their circle.

We need some intensive attention on how best to do all this starting with a broad understanding of how the most effective districts, schools, states, and countries have undertaken successful improvement. As to your point about recent research on charters. The latest CREDO report does find that urban charters do better than the average traditional public school but the effect size is tiny overall.

What it does show is that for some urban charters the effect size is strong while for other urban charters the effect size is negative.