GREEN DOT SCHOOLS
Twigg warms to Charter chain in USA because of its collaborative approach
The Green Dot Charter schools network operates 18 schools in some of the toughest areas of Los Angeles. Green Dot operates a mix of independent charter and turnaround schools, serving more than 10,000 students in Los Angeles County’s highest need areas. Its student body is statistically identical to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s, mirroring the amount of students that are English language learners, who receive free or reduced lunches, and are students with special needs.
The network has caught the eye of Stephen Twigg MP, the shadow education secretary, (speech to ACSL-16 March). It is unusual for a Labour spokesmen to highlight the performance of charter schools in the USA, as they are private operators, both for profit and not for profit, running municipal schools under a contract (or charter). That said , some Democrats in the States , including the President, much admire charters for the leg up they can give to the most disadvantaged pupils, in the poorest areas. What resonates with Twigg is the fact that Green Dot’s teachers and management worked closely with the California Teachers Association (ie a Union) to develop a contract for its teaching staff that is at one with the mission of Green Dot and also supports a sympathetic professional environment for teachers. This is all about collaboration, a theme Twigg explored in his ACSL speech . He contends that only through collaboration ,within and between schools, can schools and the system improve. He criticises the current government for creating what he sees as an ’atomised ‘system, although, arguably, he helped lay the foundations of this system , when he was in the last government. Green Dot also worked with Randi Weingarten, now president of AFT, and the United Federation of Teachers to create the employment contract for Green Dot New York Charter School. So here is evidence of collaboration in this case not just between schools, but between teachers, students and parents, including on curriculum innovation. And, unlike some Charter schools, unions are recognised. Research conducted by UCLA showed students significantly increased their test scores and took more challenging subjects. Green Dot Public Schools averaged a 20-point increase on the Academic Performance Index scores released by the California Department of Education, with two of its schools exceeding the state’s API goal of 800 for the first time. The performance marked the fourth straight year of gains across Green Dot’s 18 schools.
In 1996, just 19 states had charter legislation in place, and there were only about 250 charters serving some 20,000 pupils. In 2013- 41 states and the District of Columbia had charter laws on the books, and there are more than 2 million students enrolled in 5,600 charter schools.
Strong statistically significant results for KIPP students that are better than their peers
As of the 2012–2013 school year, 125 KIPP schools are in operation in 20 different states and the District of Columbia (DC). Ultimately, KIPP’s goal is to prepare students to enrol and succeed in college.
KIPPs approach is different. It is particularly keen on structured, ‘meaningful’ approaches to character development in its schools This is rooted in the research of Dr. Martin Seligman (Universityof Pennsylvania) and Dr. Chris Peterson (University of Michigan) that identifies 24 character strengths as leading to engaged, meaningful, and purposeful lives. Its not just about academic attainment. Resilience and character matter even more, if students are to succeed in education and life.
There is a research partnership between KIPP NYC and Dr. Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania), KIPP which informs the focus on seven highly predictive strengths: zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity. They have integrated their own experiences as teachers with the research of Seligman, Peterson, and Duckworth to create a road map for the development of each strength. So KIPP schools seek to see how they can integrate a more structured and measurable approach to character development.
Prior research has suggested that KIPP schools have positive impacts on student achievement, but most of the studies have included only a few KIPP schools or have had methodological limitations.
This is the second report of a national evaluation of KIPP middle schools being conducted by Mathematica Policy Research. The evaluation uses ‘experimental and quasi-experimental methods to produce rigorous and comprehensive evidence on the effects of KIPP middle schools across the country. The study’s first report, released in 2010, described strong positive achievement impacts in maths and reading for the 22 KIPP middle schools for which data were available at the time. This most recent study, conducted by Mathematica, is the most rigorous research yet on KIPP schools and shows that the Knowledge Is Power Program, provides a significant learning boost to middle school students in multiple subjects. It also found that while KIPP serves more low-income students than public school peers, it serves fewer special education students and English language learners. The report states ‘The average impact of KIPP on student achievement is positive, statistically significant, and educationally substantial. KIPP impact estimates are consistently positive across the four academic subjects examined, in each of the first four years after enrolment in a KIPP school, and for all measurable student subgroups’. Three years after students enroll in KIPP schools, they had 11 more months of maths knowledge than their peers, according to the study. The research showed KIPP students had eight more months of reading knowledge, 14 more months of science knowledge, and 11 more months of social studies knowledge. Charter schools are publicly funded, but can be privately run. KIPP is one of the best known chains. KIPP schools often feature a longer school day, carefully selected teachers, a strict discipline code, parental contract, and teachers available to parents after school hours. The Mathematica study accounted for the common critique that KIPP’s results are skewed because the school attracts the kids of highly-motivated parents, said Philip Gleason, who directed the research. In 13 of the 43 schools Mathematica investigated, the firm compared KIPP students with children who entered the KIPP lottery, but did not receive slots in KIPP schools. The researchers said the positive results held steady for the KIPP students. The study did find though that KIPP’s ‘behavioural’ modifications contributed to academic performance. KIPP schools that reported a “comprehensive” approach toward behaviour saw greater positive effects than schools that did not. But ‘KIPP has no statistically significant effect on a variety of measures of student attitudes that may be related to long-run academic success. The estimated KIPP impacts on indices of student-reported self-control, academic self-concept, school engagement, effort/persistence in school, and educational aspirations are not statistically significant.’ KIPP schools that had a longer than average school day had smaller positive effects on student performance. The report says this might be because the KIPP schools with longer days than others often focused their extended hours on non-academic areas. KIPP students do from 35 minutes to 53 minutes more nightly homework than their peers, yet reported they were more satisfied with school than peers, according to the study.
KIPP Middle Schools: Impacts on Achievement and Other Outcomes Final Report- February 27, 2013- Christina Clark Tuttle Brian Gill Philip Gleason Virginia Knechtel Ira Nichols-Barrer Alexandra Resch
Charter schools are the fastest-growing sector of public education, taking root in most U.S. states, thanks to a big push by the education reform lobby and the federal government’s ’Race to the Top’ competition. One of the defining features of Charter schools is that they operate on the basis of a ‘charter’, i.e. a performance contract granted for three to five years, defining the school’s mission and goals, as well as the type of students it aims to attract. Charter schools are then held accountable to their sponsor (for example a local school board), which assesses whether these stated aims have been achieved and – if not – eventually revokes the charter.
Performance pay-be careful what you wish for
From September 2013, the set “spine points” on teachers main pay scale are to be scrapped, with schools free to set teachers’ pay anywhere between minimum and maximum levels depending on performance.
While academies are already free to deviate from national pay structures, (very few have, to date) the plans drawn up by the STRB – and accepted in full by the Department for Education – will now give other schools greater power to link teachers’ pay to performance.
It is clear that the issue of performance related pay is high on this governments agenda. Ministers are trying to raise the quality of teaching to compare with the best in the world. The OECD (2009) concluded that “the effective monitoring and evaluation of teaching is central to the continuous improvement of the effectiveness of teaching in a school”. It is less clear that this issue is high on teachers and governors agendas.
The last Labour government introduced a PRP system in the late 1990’s and just about every teacher who was eligible met the criteria for a pay rise ,(96%) so it didn’t really work . In short, it failed effectively to link extra rewards to higher performance. Heads and governors dont much like dealing with this sensitive issue head on as inevitably it causes some conflicts and ill feeling within staff rooms, which may go some way to explaining why the last system failed.
Central to PRP or ‘merit ‘pay is the ability to accurately measure and evaluate individual teachers performance. The system you develop should be fair, efficient and not have a large bureaucracy attached to it. And that is why,frankly, it is problematic.
The three most common ways to evaluate teacher effectiveness, according to research, are gains in test scores, classroom observations and pupil surveys. Each method though has its known weaknesses. Teacher observation apparently is the least predictive method of assessing teacher effectiveness. Nonetheless, despite this, those involved with teacher evaluation say that each element has its place within a comprehensive and fair teacher evaluation system. The key they claim is to get the right balance between these different elements, which is easier said than done.
Of these elements, gains in pupil test scores are seen by most as the best available metric to measure teacher performance. However, as they are finding in the USA, it doesn’t come without its problems. (around forty states have introduced some form of merit pay, incentivised to do so by the Federal government) . Although schools can have a substantial impact on performance, student test scores can also increase, decrease or remain flat for reasons that have little or nothing to do with schools. Measurement errors can occur, while parental education levels, family’s economic circumstances, and parental involvement, can also play a role. There is self-evidently a strong incentive for playing the numbers to look successful on “quality” measures since the numbers carry substantial consequences for the teacher. This is a very high stakes game. Working out how to look good, through test results, becomes an end in itself, with the numbers becoming more important than the primary task of teaching students. Given that many politicians now worry about teachers being pre-occupied with teaching to the test, and children’s education suffering as a consequence, introducing test scores as the primary metric to evaluate teachers is going to encourage more (indeed all) teachers to teach to the test ,not less.
It would seem that Value-added or progress measures, rather than absolute test or exam results, should be the primary data used in evaluating performance, certainly this is what many experts recommend. But, and its quite a big but, measuring value added is itself not free from controversy and there are different models available, with their own strengths and weaknesses, and with no clear consensus identifiable.
There are ways, though, of using pay to encourage groups of teachers to work better together to improve outcomes. And, if one is honest about this issue, it sticks in the craw that outstanding teachers are not rewarded as they should be, while poor teachers can stay in the profession for life having a hugely negative effect on students life opportunities, and education outcomes, while acting as a drag on improving the system more generally (quite apart from irritating their better performing peers).
To recap-to make progress in this area you need to develop a system that is fair, balanced, transparent and not too bureaucratic. They are still struggling with this challenge in the States, where they are well ahead of us in both thinking and practice on this issue.
One recent study titled ‘The Use and Misuse of Teacher Appraisal’ (Laura Figazzolo- Education International Research Institute Consultant- January 2013) found: ‘ The evidence is that many dimensions need to be taken into account when evaluating teachers. Student achievements are but one dimension – especially when these are standardized tests. Where teacher appraisal is based on professional standards, classroom observations, curriculum development, and a wide range of associated factors which are associated with teaching and teacher perspectives, comprehensive methods seem to be able to provide more valuable information. When teacher appraisal arrangements and policies are conceived with the participation of teachers and their unions, comprehensive methods seem to be able to gain teachers’ trust and provide valuable information. As such, they are gaining growing recognition in the debate on teacher appraisal’
It is frustratingly true that schools here seeking expert advice and guidance on this issue will be confronted with much conflicting evidence and the issue is neither simple nor straightforward..
COULD SAT APTITUDE TESTS- DESIGNED IN THE US- HELP UK HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS DEVELOP A FAIRER SYSTEM TO MEASURE POTENTIAL?
Could they help UK Universities select students more fairly?
Universities are keen to ensure that they have a clear idea of a students potential in deciding admissions and not simply to rely on exam results. Measuring potential is not easy and cant really be done by looking at a students application (UCAS) form, contrary to the claims made by some admissions tutors.
They have looked across the Atlantic for inspiration looking in particular at the SAT aptitude test (the SAT Reasoning TestTM) as a tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE) either as a standalone tool or one used in conjunction with GCSEs and AS/A2 levels to determine admissions.
SAT are multiple-choice tests required for admission by several top US universities (although they are not the only test available). It is sometime assumed that SATs are similar to GCSEs or A levels . They are not. They are basically IQ tests designed to measure potential rather than to measure what you have learned at school.
So if SAT tests are supposed to measure potential, do they do this effectively? There is much debate about this. However, given that a cottage industry has developed in tutoring students to help them pass the SAT there are grounds for doubting that the tests truly measure potential. SAT questions are quite particular and the skills to answer them are not often taught in schools. Hence the cottage industry ,selling textbooks and extra tuition Students wanting to take SATs must usually register independently, pay for the test and travel to an SAT test centre. For rural students, the nearest location may be some distance And then there is the problem of revising. Poorer students inevitably are disadvantaged.
In the UK, back in 2005, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) was commissioned to evaluate the potential value of using an the SAT Reasoning TestTM as an additional tool in the selection of candidates for admission to higher education (HE). This five-year study was co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills (BIS), the NFER, the Sutton Trust and the College Board. The primary aim of the study was to examine whether the addition of the SAT® alongside A levels is better able to predict HE participation and outcomes than A levels alone. And whether it might help identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.
The study found that of the prior attainment measures, average A level points score is the best predictor of HE participation and degree class, followed by average GCSE points score. The inclusion of GCSE information adds usefully to the predictive power of A levels. In the absence of other data, the SAT® has some predictive power but it does not add any additional information, over and above that of GCSEs and A levels (or GCSEs alone), at a significantly useful level. But could the SAT® identify economically or educationally disadvantaged students with the potential to benefit from HE whose ability is not adequately reflected in their A level results; and could the SAT® distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get straight A grades at A level.
The study also found ‘no evidence that the SAT® provides sufficient information to identify students with the potential to benefit from higher education whose ability is not adequately reflected in their prior attainment.’
In addition ‘the SAT® does not distinguish helpfully between the most able applicants who get three or more A grades at A level. The SAT® Reading and Writing components do add some predictive power for some classes of degree at highly selective universities, but add very little beyond the information provided by prior attainment, in particular prior attainment at GCSE.’
So it is pretty safe to conclude that the SAT is no panacea for measuring student potential and would have limited utility for Higher Education Institutions in this country to help them design a fairer admissions process that fully takes into account an applicants potential.
Use of an aptitude test in university entrance: a validity study Final Report-3 December 2010- NFER-Sutton Trust
THE MASSACHUSETTS MODEL
Successful and influenced by Hirsch
Hence Gove referencing Massachusetts
At his recent speech at the SMF, the Education Secretary ,Micheal Gove, praised the Massachusetts curriculum in which their “history curriculum requires students to be taught in rich factual detail about their heritage”. ED Hirsch the American academic who articulates the need for a core curriculum of knowledge and the importance of memorisation had a significant influence on Goves thinking behind the new curriculum. But Gove has been criticised for rushing through the proposals, of not properly consulting the experts or listening to them. Historians, for example, have written to the Observer this week complaining about the content of the new history curriculum and the need to identify consensus, through proper consultation.
Massachusetts prides itself on the amount of meaningful consultation it undertook before it settled on its curriculum frameworks:
The opening page to the MA Curriculum Frameworks website contains the following statement:
‘Since the enactment of the Education Reform Act of 1993, a great deal of work has gone into developing the Curriculum Frameworks. What has made the process so effective is the grassroots involvement of thousands of people statewide. The task could not have been accomplished without the commitment, energy, and dedication of teachers, administrators, associations, parents, business, students, higher education faculty, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff, the Board of Education, and the public.’
Of course there is a consultation now underway (see link below) but the charge is that Governments generally tend to have made up their mind before public consultations take place and that the subsequent process is little more than an exercise in window dressing and / or cherry picking . We shall see.(I would suggest that it is worth looking in detail at the proposals and contributing to the consultation because the Secretary of State and DFE will be less willing to ignore such contributions now than they were a week ago, before the U turn on the EBC )
But why is Gove referencing Massachussetts?
Because its educational achievement outcompetes every other US state .For instance, the state leads the USA in reading and mathematics on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. It routinely excels even when you control for income and parental income level. On the 2005 NAEP tests, Massachusetts ranked first in the US in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and fourth- and eighth-grade math. It then repeated the feat in 2007. No state had ever scored first in both grades and both subjects in a single year—let alone for two consecutive test cycles. How has Massachusetts done it?
The short answer that educators in Massachusetts give is that it achieves so highly because 20 years ago they implemented Hirsch’s Core Knowledge curriculum state-wide in 1993, a curriculum that now runs in over 1,000 US schools.
Its not ,of course, just about the curriculum. Leadership, high quality teaching, collaboration, dissemination of best practice and other elements are also essential for success, but Hirsch and his core knowledge win most of the plaudits
We have covered his thinking and influence before. Here is a quote from Hirsch to give a flavour:
‘Higher-order thinking is knowledge-based: The almost universal feature of reliable higher-order thinking about any subject or problem is the possession of a broad, well-integrated base of background knowledge relevant to the subject’. (1996)
But there is another significant claim made that is particularly interesting.
The claim is that Core Knowledge Schools have raised the bar for all and closed the gap between more and less disadvantaged students.
In an extensive study in 2000, for example, Core Knowledge students were found to have outperformed their peers in almost all categories (reading, vocabulary, history, geography and maths). During the late 1990s researchers in Maryland found that the degree to which Core Knowledge was implemented in schools was a significant predictor of student achievement gain. Another study concluded that the carefully sequenced Core Knowledge curriculum also has the potential to help disadvantaged students overcome their disadvantages and achieve academic proficiency.
Then there is the so-called Matthew effect – ‘to those who have, more shall be given, but from those who have not, even what they have shall be taken away’. This is about the effects of accumulative advantage referred to by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers and in Daniel Rigney’s book ‘The Matthew Effect’.
Hirsch points out that ‘unless an early knowledge deficit is quickly overcome, the deficit grows ever larger’; for him, ‘the cumulative principle explains the phenomenon of the widening gap’ in achievement across and within countries. Therefore, Hirsch concluded, ‘we can greatly accelerate the achievements of all students if we adopt knowledge-oriented modes of schooling.’ (2006 xii)
Massachusetts uses Hirschs ideas and is successful. Hence, Goves enthusiasm for his ideas.
In summary, Hirsch’s ideas can be distilled as follows: at the core of academic achievement lies a body of essential knowledge and the more you accumulate this knowledge the more you will accelerate your academic achievement .
But ,as Gove is finding out,what constitutes core knowledge is very much open to debate.
The National Assessment of Education Progress, or NAEP, which is an exam administered to a sample of fourth, eighth and twelfth grade students every two years in reading and math. All states and DC have been included since 2003.The NAEP is called “the nation’s report card,” and Massachusetts students have long been dominant.
Hirsch has studied Massachusetts. He found that Massachusetts was one of three states that made the most progress at reducing achievement gaps between 1998 and 2005. Between 2002 and 2009, the scores of African-Americans and Hispanics on both fourth- and eighth-grade reading tests improved more rapidly than those of white students. Low-income students made gains as well. “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child,” Hirsch said in 2008, “Massachusetts is . . . the state to move to.”
GOVE, HIRSCH AND THE CURRICULUM
New curriculum will focus on core knowledge-influenced by Hirsch
E.D. Hirsch is an American professor whose radical ideas about what should be taught in schools are set to have a profound effect on English schools. A favoured intellectual of the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, Hirsch advocates a curriculum strongly grounded in facts and knowledge. He also believes that there are certain specific ideas, works of literature and scientific concepts which everyone should know so that they can be active participants in society. This is aimed at counteracting what Gove describes as a prevailing left-wing or ‘progressive’ ideology among teachers.
In a speech to the Social Market Foundation, on 5 February, Gove promised to rid the curriculum of “vapid happy talk” and ensure pupils had a structured “stock of knowledge”.
Hirsch promoted the idea of the importance of cultural literacy—the necessary information that students must have to understand what they read. After arguing, in Cultural Literacy (1988), that young people are not becoming good readers because they lack cultural literacy, Hirsch set out to remedy the problem by “spelling out, grade by grade, in detail, what students must know in a variety of fields if they are to be competent and understanding readers.” In addition to this Core Knowledge curriculum, Hirsch launched a system of Core Knowledge schools to teach it along with a Core Knowledge Foundation to support them. Indeed his Core Knowledge curriculum, created in 1986, is now used in more than 1,000 schools and preschools in 47 States. So teaching a core knowledge is essential. And this must detail specific information for students to learn. It is a “lasting body of knowledge, which includes such topics as the basic principles of constitutional government, mathematics and language skills, important events in world history, and acknowledged masterpieces of art, music and literature” Hirsch asserts that “the principal aim of schooling is to promote literacy as an enabling competence”. Crucially general knowledge should be a goal of education because it “makes people competent regardless of race, class or ethnicity while also making people more competent in the tasks of life.” This general knowledge includes knowing a range of objective facts. Hirsch says that highly skilled intellectual competence only comes after one knows a lot of facts.
Knowledge, according to Hirsch, is “intellectual capital” – that is “the knowledge and skill a person possesses at a given moment.” He also says that the more knowledge and skill a person has, the more they can acquire. “Learning builds on learning” he argues. So, the more a person knows, believes Hirsch, the more a person can learn in a multiplier effect. He calls existing knowledge “mental Velcro”, which allows for additional knowledge to become attached to it , and so a memory replete with facts learns better than one without.
In his speech Gove criticised the widespread opposition to the English Baccalaureate, the performance measure introduced in 2010 which gauges secondary schools by the proportion of pupils who get a C or above in six GCSEs – English, maths, two of the sciences, history or geography and a language.
“The reaction from the Labour party, the teaching unions, teacher training institutions and all too many figures ostensibly dedicated to cultural excellence was visceral horror,” Gove said.
In the most scathing and personal section of the speech Gove argued that his Labour shadow, Stephen Twigg, along with the party’s leader, Ed Miliband, and Ed Balls, the children’s minister turned shadow chancellor, wanted to deny disadvantaged pupils the benefits of a liberal education of the sort they enjoyed in studying for degrees in politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford.
Dipping into popular TV culture by referencing the TV costume drama Downton Abbey, Gove said: “The current leadership of the Labour party react to the idea that working-class students might study the subjects they studied with the same horror that the Earl of Grantham showed when a chauffeur wanted to marry his daughter.
“Labour, under their current leadership, want to be the Downton Abbey party when it comes to educational opportunity. They think working-class children should stick to the station in life they were born into – they should be happy to be recognised for being good with their hands and not presume to get above themselves.”
London’s Pimlico Academy is one pioneering school that has introduced a ”Hirsch-style” curriculum in its new primary school. Two young women are leading this experiment: Anneliese Briggs and Daisy Christodoulou. Pimlico Academy of course is supported by venture capitalist Lord Nash, recently appointed an education minister to replace Lord Hill.
Ed Hirsch’s thinking, which Gove so admires (as does Nick Gibb the former schools Minister) is seen as antithetical to the progressive, child centred approach to education as articulated by thinkers such as John Dewey (active in early twentieth century). To be fair , concerning Dewey, his views are often caricatured by critics and taken out of context partly, one suspects, because they are not so easily understood and he is a less easily accessible writer than Hirsch. And, of course, he isn’t around to clarify his ideas for us. Dewey wanted a better balance between delivering knowledge and memorisation while fully taking into account the interests and experiences of the student. Dewey became one of the most famous proponents of hands-on learning or ‘experiential’ education. Hirsch has had more influence on US schools. And, significantly, the best performing US state-Massachusetts-is heavily influenced by Hirsch, hence it is frequently referenced by Gove. Hirsch has studied Massachusetts. He found that Massachusetts was one of three states that made the most progress at reducing achievement gaps between 1998 and 2005. Between 2002 and 2009, the scores of African-Americans and Hispanics on both fourth- and eighth-grade reading tests improved more rapidly than those of white students. Low-income students made gains as well. “If you are a disadvantaged parent with a school-age child,” Hirsch said in 2008, “Massachusetts is . . . the state to move to.”
THE FOURTH WAY
Reform needs vision collaboration and public engagement
Educators and policy makers, according to Professor Andy Hargreaves, increasingly recognise that the old ways for effecting social and educational change are no longer suited to the – fast, flexible, and vulnerable new world of the 21st century.
In their book The Fourth Way, Professor Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley, examine the three ways of change that have defined global educational policy and practice from the 1960s to the present. They then offer a new Fourth Way that ‘ will lead to remarkable leaps forward in student learning and achievement.’
So what are these ways for approaching reform?
The First Way of state support and professional freedom led to innovation and new social movements, but also uneven school performance, inconsistent leadership, and educational improvements informed by intuition and ideology rather than evidence.
The Second Way of competition and educational prescriptions – in which innovation gave way to standardisation, uniformity, and inequity – led to great costs in teacher motivation, leadership capacity, and student learning.
The Third Way attempted to balance professional community with accountability, but has instead according to the authors, become overly preoccupied with collecting, analysing and tracking students, teachers and schools with endless quantities of data. This is now the dominant reform strategy in many regions; short-term, quick-fix solutions designed to produce instant lifts in achievement scores prevail over long-term, innovative and sustainable reforms for the 21st century.
The Fourth Way draws on first-hand and rigorous research evidence of outstandingly successful practice from across the world to offer a vision and a plan for a more successful, challenging, and sustainable educational future. From top-performing Finland to the impressive achievements of community engagement in America; from the most turned-around school district in Britain to a dynamic network of 300 high schools that lifted achievement dramatically by helping each other rather than responding to heavy-handed interventions from the top; and from the conservative-controlled yet innovation-oriented province of Alberta to union-driven reform movements in California – this book shows what works well, why it does so, and what we can learn about forging new and better paths of educational change.
The Fourth Way is informed by a strong sense of history, some of the world‘s most influential policy theory, and the authors’ own painstaking evidence.
Michael Fullan says it is – a powerful ‘catalyst for coherence’ in a field that badly needs guidance. Anthony Giddens, author of the Third Way (remember him?) and intellectual guru for President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair, agrees that the Third Way has reached its limit and that it is time to engage with the Fourth Way of educational and social change.( I am not terribly convinced that the Third Way ever gained much traction)
So what, in essence, is this Fourth way?
It is about connecting three distinct elements. First, there must be a national vision and a clear sense of where a country is going. The focus is not on the country’s rankings. It is about “who we are, what we are and why we are”. This is the first element that drives the performance that follows. The second is professional collaboration, which involves teachers working with teachers, schools working with schools, and more local discretion for decision making. (again the theme of collaboration crops up) The third is public engagement, which actually means that the government loses control because there is more democratic inclusion of the public deciding the way it is moving as a society. It also means the profession is redefining professionalism. In other words, the professionals gain more autonomy from the government, but also less autonomy from the public, parents and communities over time. Therefore, practice has to be open to public definitions and understandings of what school is like.
The principles of the Fourth Way consist of six pillars of purpose and partnership that support change, three principles of professionalism that drive change, and four catalysts of coherence that sustain change and hold it together.
The six pillars of purpose and partnership include:
• An inspiring and inclusive vision
• Public engagement
• No achievement without investment
• Corporate educational responsibility (this is about corporate involvement, not with control for financial benefit but as a community responsibility. Furthermore, this is a moral community responsibility)
• Students as partners in change
• Mindful learning and teaching (this is about an approach to teaching, which is not just the implementation of a script, or a quick response to an external demand. But it is more about mindful, deeply engaged, critical, and challenging teaching and learning.)
The following principles are at the heart of this argument:
• High quality teachers
• Positive and powerful professional associations
• Lively learning communities
These are the four principles that sustain change and create the coherence:
• Sustainable leadership- It is about thinking about how leaders work with other leaders, and how schools help other schools.
• Integrating networks – very often networks will consist of schools next door, the schools in the same community, and the schools that may even be competing with each other.
• Responsibility before accountability- is not about having no accountability, but about responsibility before accountability
• Differentiation and diversity- Differentiation in diversity involves understanding the different ways students learn and the different intelligences they have, which can help teachers teach differently
Andy Hargreaves is the Thomas More Brennan Chair in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. The mission of the Chair is to promote social justice and connect theory and practice in education.
Dr. Dennis Shirley is Professor of Education at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. Shirley received a contract of $592,000 to lead an international team on a study of the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement in Canada.
The Fourth Way: The Inspiring Future for Educational Change [Paperback] Andy Hargreaves (Editor), Dennis Shirley (Editor)
Neil Postman argued the importance of shared narratives about what schools are for
The debate continues
Neil Postman stressed that his main purpose in his 1995 book the End of Education was to promote a serious conversation about the underlying reasons for education — not about policies, management, assessment, and other , as he described it, ‘engineering’ matters. While these are important, he states, “they ought rightfully to be addressed after decisions are made about what schools are for.” Here we are in 2013 still debating what schools are for.
Postman identified what he took to be the “false gods” of modern education. What keeps our schools from being effective, he said, is the lack of commonly accepted stories, or narratives, that give meaning and direction to schooling. In short education, is geared toward economic utility, consumerism, technology, multiculturalism and other ‘bogus’ objectives. The problem is that narratives such as these to his mind are incapable of providing a rich and sustaining rationale for public education.
For education to be meaningful, Postman contends, young people, their parents, and their teachers must have common, shared narratives. Narratives are essential because they provide a sense of personal identity, a sense of community life, a basis for moral conduct, and explanations of that which cannot be known. The idea of public education requires not only shared narratives, but also the absence of narratives that lead to alienation and divisiveness. “What makes public schools public,” writes Postman, “is not so much that the schools have common goals but that the students have common gods.”
So what are these narratives? There are five:
“Spaceship Earth” (the notion of humans as stewards of the planet); Through subjects such as ecology, anthropology, and astronomy, students could develop an ethic of care and a proper perspective on their place in the order of things.
“The Fallen Angel” (a view of history and the advancement of knowledge as a series of errors and corrections); Postman says we ought to let our students peek more often behind the facade of textbook truths to the process of argument, reflection, and doubt.
“The American Experiment” (the story of America as a great experiment and as a centre of continuous argument); Postman suggests that we all need a healthier dose of civic pride and patriotism in order to make an ongoing contribution to the narrative of democracy and society
“The Laws of Diversity” (the view that difference contributes to increased vitality and excellence, and, ultimately, to a sense of unity); By this he means that students should explore the inherently multicultural nature of modern beliefs and practices. If we look closely, Postman says, we find that language, religion, art, and custom travel well across cultural borders; historically they are the product of much borrowing and intermingling.
“The Word Weavers/The World Makers” (the understanding that the world is created through language — through definitions, questions, and metaphors). Postman urges a more reflexive approach to the use of language. Stressing our species’ unique legacy, he suggests that as “word weavers” we are also “world makers.” He urges us to “free our minds from the tyranny of definitions” (p. 183). Students must penetrate the root metaphors and definitions that provide frameworks for inquiry across the human arts and sciences.
Postman offers some radical ideas. Too radical, maybe. He argues that textbooks should be altogether eliminated because they have a deadening effect on students and promote a view of education as the acquisition of immutable facts. He proposes that teachers offer incentives to students who find errors in their teachers’ lessons. (no go area for unions) And he feels, as we have seen, that the subjects of archaeology, ecology, geology and astronomy be given the highest priority since they imbue students with a sense of awe and global interdependence (what about all the other subjects that demand time in curriculum, including the arts). Teaching on democracy and diversity and ‘American History’ are susceptible, of course, to manipulation by politicians who can have their own often subjective , polarised and parochial versions of what is important and right. (politicians all have their own whimsical views about what should and should not appear in the curriculum)
Postman posits a moral philosophy of education which is certainly thought provoking. He offers too a scaffolding upon which to build a curriculum. (slightly reminded here of the Big History approach- which examines history scientifically using a multi-disciplinary approach from the Big Bang to the present. ) But it is hard to see how his vision has much resonance today. For example, also taking into account his other work, he sees the erosion of culture by technology, so the role of the school should not be to maintain pace with change but rather to provide an oasis of tradition and quietude from which to observe the technological frenzy that is modern society- so how would that sit with current thinking? (though its true that wildly ambitious claims (ie evidence lite) have been made for how technology can improve learning outcomes) He seems to be trying to save, as he sees it, public education because it is the only means by which American culture can be preserved from the rampages of uncontrolled technological development. So what sounded interesting and cutting edge in the 1990s now looks a bit jaded, maybe?
But, as the debate continues into 2013, on what education is for, he provides a useful and provocative source.
Postman, N. (1995). The end of education: Redefining the value of school. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books.
Memorisation is important in education and learning
In a recent speech, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, several times quoted one of his educational gurus, the American cognitive psychologist Professor Daniel Willingham, who specialises in learning and memory.
Willingham says: “Research from cognitive science has shown that the sort of skills teachers want for students — such as the ability to analyse and think critically — require extensive factual knowledge.” Memorisation is a necessary precondition of understanding.” Gove claimed. The Guardian suggested that Gove, in his speech, was championing by rote learning (slightly unfair, see note)
In short, there can be no factual knowledge without deliberate memorising as well as other kinds of more passive memory. So memorising, according to Willingham and Gove, is a precondition of understanding. In fact Willingham, as he said on his blog, would have preferred Gove in his speech to have substituted “knowledge,” to “memorisation” ‘ because the latter makes it sound as though one must sit down and wilfully commit information to memory. This is a poor way to learn new information–it’s much more desirable that the to-be-learned material is embedded in some interesting activity, so that the student will be likely to remember it as a matter of course.’
Memorisation, of course, does not necessarily mean learning by ‘rote’. Rote learning is just one way in which we are able to commit things to memory. Information can be memorised in many different ways and using specific techniques ie mnemonics, visualisation and so on .The argument goes that the more you repeat the thing you want to learn, the stronger the connection between neurons and the brain become. Marc Smith, a teacher and chartered psychologist, in the Guardian last week, wrote ‘The human brain is pretty good at learning. Each time it learns something new (anything from the capital of France to riding a bike) a connection is formed between neurons in the brain, the more the thing to be learned is repeated, the stronger the connections become.’
He continued ‘Memorising facts can build the foundations for higher thinking and problem solving. Constant recitation of times tables might not help children understand mathematical concepts but it may allow them to draw on what they have memorised in order succeed in more complex mental arithmetic. Memorisation, therefore, produces a more efficient memory, taking it beyond its limitations of capacity and duration’
He stressed, though, that what he was not saying was that all learning should be based on memorisation .Any good teacher understands that a variety of teaching methods will get the best from our students and that specific students might require specialist interventions. Nevertheless, he says crucially ‘ there exists a considerable body of evidence to suggest that a memory rife with facts learns better than one without.’
Some of the most successful education systems in the world use memorisation (or indeed, by rote learning,)from Foundation level onwards. So dont knock it .
Professor Willingham points out that Gove in his speech emphasized that exam preparation should not mean a dull drilling of facts, (ie rote learning) but rather should happen through “entertaining narratives in history, striking practical work in science and unveiling hidden patterns in maths.” Willingham writes ‘I think the word “memorisation” may be what led the Guardian to use a headline suggesting Gove was advocating rote learning.’
Minette Marrin, in the Sunday Times, last week, drew attention to the work of Alex Bellos. He discovered that all Japanese toddlers are taught to sing a kind of numbers nursery rhyme call kuku. It is, in fact, a song of times tables, and they sing it by rote in groups, long before they understand what it means. This way, it seems Japanese children internalise their tables perfectly, permanently and happily, unlike British children. Bellos tested Japanese office workers in a bar; all were number perfect, and one explained it was the memory of the kuku music that made it impossible for her to forget the tables.
- GRAMMAR SCHOOLS-NO THREAT TO STATUS-BUT EXPANSION IS UNLIKELY
- THE BILDERBERG CONFERENCE-LESS THAN IT SEEMS?
- OFSTED REPORT-ON ABLE CHILDREN-NOT ENOUGH SUPPORT FROM SCHOOLS
- BIG CHANGES TO GCSEs
- THE CHARITY COMMISSION- A REPUTATION ON THE LINE
- EXACTLY HOW MANY CZARS DOES ONE NEED?
- DO STATE SCHOOLS SELECT THEIR PUPILS?
- CBI AND GOVES EDUCATION REFORMS
- GRAHAM STUART AND GOVERNMENT POLICY ON CAREERS ADVICE IN SCHOOLS
- HOW DO YOU IMPROVE TEACHING IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS TO ‘OUTSTANDING’ -NEW REPORT
- ACADEMIES AND THE INDEPENDENT SECTOR-TIME FOR A RETHINK?
- CRACKDOWN ON EXPLOITATION OF INTERNS
- Careers advice and Guidance
- Charity Status
- Charter School
- Coalition Education Policy
- Conservative policy
- Discipline and Truancy
- early years learning
- education market
- education quangos
- education reform
- Free schools
- higher education
- Home Education
- independent schools
- primary schools
- Public Services Reform
- published letters
- Pupil Support
- quality assurance
- quality assurance and inspection
- school governance
- secondary schools
- Secure Estate
- SPECIAL NEEDS
- teachers and teaching
- Think tanks
- us education system
- Youth policy