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Published in Print: June 12, 2002, as Mass. Group Shares Models Of School Success

Mass. Group Shares Models Of School Success

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As is common across the nation, some schools in Massachusetts are succeeding while other, often similar schools in the state are struggling.

Now, a Massachusetts nonprofit group focused on raising student achievement is trying to sort out the secrets of successful schools while providing school administrators nationwide with information on how they too can improve their standards-based reform efforts.

Using high-achieving schools in Massachusetts as examples, Boston-based Mass Insight Education is developing an online database of detailed steps schools can take to address a variety of different challenges as part of its effort, called "Building Blocks Initiative for Standards-Based Reform."

Traditional reports about successful schools are written for policymakers and academics, said William Guenther, the president of Mass Insight Education. He hopes to avoid that.

Most reports profiling successful schools "don't give the average school leader any sense of the next steps they should take" to put strategies in place, he said.

Insight on Success

The models in his group's database are organized under specific "challenges," such as effective use of data, higher standards for teaching, and intervention for students who need help.

Documents from individual school reform efforts are included in the database, which is available online at www.buildingblocks.org.

For example, in 1999, the Boston Public Schools conducted an audit of its professional development activities in order to align teacher training with the district's reform efforts.

Instructions on how other districts can conduct similar audits, and the report from the Boston review, are posted on the Web site.

"One of the most powerful things on the site is to have these artifacts," said Mr. Guenther.

He added that in addition to the Web-site database, the group is trying to pair school leaders from successful districts with educators who want to learn from them. "What differs in this program from a lot of other networking going on is that it is focused like a laser on specific challenges," he said.

Since schools systems can be very isolated, opportunities to network and gain access to useful information through a Web site can be important, said Christa Kafer, an education analyst for the Heritage Foundation, a think tank in Washington.

But, she added, administrators using this information need to be aware of the organization's goals. As she put it: "Is it something solidly linked in with the standards and achievement framework a lot of people are seeking, or is it locked into a different framework?"

Vol. 21, Issue 40, Page 15

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