From Health-Care Reform, Lessons for Education Policy
One of the most important factors that broke decades of political stalemate over national health-insurance reform was the emergence of research demonstrating that some U.S. medical providers were far more cost-effective than others. By showing that institutions like Kaiser Permanente, the Cleveland Clinic, and the U.S. Veterans Health Administration produced better patient outcomes, those studies suggested that policies which encourage other medical providers to emulate successful organizations could make the whole system produce better results over time. Three of the commonalities shared by those model health-care institutions are: highly collaborative cultures built on teamwork; unusually sophisticated attentiveness to testing data to monitor patient progress and respond to problems; and an orientation toward ongoing adaptation rather than rigid adherence to established routines.
In education, off a public radar screen that remains fixated on the relentless conflict between teachers' unions and their detractors, research is mounting that the most effective public schools also are characterized by unusually high degrees of collaboration, close attentiveness to testing data for diagnostic (not punitive) purposes, and adaptability. Especially in light of how unproductive the so-called education wars have been, greater focus on this research has the potential to point the way toward reforms that would actually improve student outcomes. Given how entrenched today's conflicts appear to be, that hope might seem fanciful. But it wasn't that long ago that a major overhaul of the nation's health-care system also appeared to be out of reach politically.
Perhaps the most significant and persuasive research underscoring the fundamental importance of collaboration to improving school performance was conducted by the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research. Published in 2010 as a book titled Organizing Schools for Improvement , the consortium's study derived from demographic and testing data from 1990 through 2005 from more than 400 Chicago elementary schools, as well as extensive surveys of stakeholders in those schools, to gain information about their institutional practices. Using advanced statistical methods, the consortium identified, with a high degree of reliability, the organizational traits and processes that can predict whether a school is likely to show above-average...
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