Posts Tagged ‘models of school success’

Dodge the Bar or Leap the Hurdle?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Teachers know that school programs come and go.  No wonder they roll their eyes and say just wait it out.  I can verify this claim.  I was a long time teacher and have seen plenty of “new” programs, solutions for any difficulty possible to name.

However, the one worthy mandate of the original No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation is that schools across the nation are required to be accountable for student success.  First implemented in 2001, that’s a long, long time ago in the K-12 education world.

Of course, little federal money was authorized to assure the mandate’s success.  States chose from a myriad of assessment tools.  Each state decided at which point students were considered proficient in reading and math.  School districts were left to come up with teacher training and the models of curriculum and instruction to help students succeed.

All those hurdles were enshrined in the NCLB Act during eight years when legislatures were in a constant budget struggle to find funds to support public education.

Until now, many states did the minimum, as has been reported in numerous news articles, so few comparisons have been made to see how children across the nation are doing.  For example, proficiency was set at a ridiculously low level.  The selected assessment tools were poorly designed and offered little information.  Teachers were not provided training to analyze assessment results and plan lessons to improve student achievement.

In spite of the urge to dodge the bar, a number of states and schools and school districts managed to set high standards and show success, especially important in low-performing schools found in neighborhoods with many students “at risk.”  Homelessness, second language issues, and low income levels all set obstacles for student success.

Slowly, with conscientious support at the district level and competent, relentless school personnel, student levels of achievement improved and will continue to improve as long as all components that support the outcomes are kept in place.

We should be relieved that some schools took on the challenge and leaped the hurdles.  Now that models of success have come to the fore, the education community must not let go.

I looked at studies of three models in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Cincinnati Public Schools, and Hamilton, Tennessee, all of which are good, if not perfect, examples of schools making progress.  Such schools, found in neighborhoods across the country, do not use the exact same curriculum, or have the same daily schedule, or rely on the same organization of staff.

They do all have certain components of attitude, teacher collaboration, professional development, and parent and community support.  They can demonstrate how students have achieved.  That’s being accountable.

If interested, the website for the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (five universities pooling resources) is filled with articles that address studies and research about successful schools.  Search for articles on ‘accountability.’