How Do We Improve Our Circumstances?
There is not one solution to fostering great schools, but a combination of many key elements. We must attract and support teachers, and build great pedagogy using field-based training, pedagogical excellence, teaching academies with paid clinical training, etc. Attracting great and diverse teachers requires many system changes. International data demonstrates that it’s not all about pay. We need to increase the prestige of teaching and people will feel more of a commitment to service. We also need great leaders who are great teachers. Leaders create the environment for great learning. They understand great instruction, set the instructional tone at the school, have some business sense, but focus on safety, climate and instructional quality.
We need more parent engagement. Parents/guardians need to truly understand what low and high performing schools are and understand how to interpret school performance data. Ignacio Lopez, Ed.D and assistant professor of Education at NLU, conducted a study with more than 60 parents of the Pilsen/Midway community who attended a seven-part training. From this we learned that parents are often asked to be involved with schools, but what “we schools” seek is "engagement," an opportunity for parents to contribute to their children's learning by discussing school-data, curriculum and school improvement plans.
Often times doubt exists among some teachers and school leaders, stating "parents in this community really don't care about their kids’ education." What we learned, is that parents don't know that they want to know. When we showed them school-reform related issues to parents (on school closings and inequities in services), they demanded to know more.
Importantly, schools and communities alike must calibrate their understanding of culture and identity. Many times parents show love to their child in ways that others aren't accustomed to.
We need to lean forward and adapt to the global, economic, and societal changes that are creating a great “mash-up” of ideas, processes, needs, and conditions in the United States and across the globe. We need to think in an integrated interdisciplinary way. And we must not forget that we are all unified by the common belief that every child deserves a great school.
1Duncan, Greg J. (author) and Murnane, Richard J. (editor). Whither Opportunity? Russell Sage Foundation, September 2011.
2http://www.oecd.org/unitedstates/ (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). Financial and Human Resources Invested in Education, 2011.
3http://nces.ed.gov (National Center for Education Statistics).
4 http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/ (Program for International Student Assessment).
5http://www.oecd.org/unitedstates/ (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). Financial and Human Resources Invested in Education, 2011.
6 http://nctaf.org/wp-content/uploads/NCTAFCostofTeacherTurnoverpolicybrief.pdf (Policy Brief: The High Cost of Teacher Turnover).