Sputnik will not publish during the month of August. I hope my loyal readers enjoy the last weeks of summer. If you are seeking your “fix” of evidence-based education commentary, I have collected a few of the top stories from the year:
Seeds, Bricks, and Sand: Stages of School-Reform Readiness
A metaphor for three types of schools in terms of readiness for reform is seeds, bricks, sand. The “seeds” metaphor implies an environment so conducive to reform that anything can grow there. The staff and leadership of the school are capable, aware of research, participating in professional development, well-coordinated, cohesive, and unafraid of change. Such a school can create and evaluate its own reform methods and sustain and improve them over time, perhaps with general advice from consultants.
Note to SIG Schools: Good Lists ≠ Good Outcomes
Lists may be useful in ensuring implementation of all aspects of proven programs, but they do not themselves lead to improved practice or enhances outcomes. At the broadest level, here’s the list most likely to turn around schools struggling to meet standards:
1. Adopt whole-school approaches proven to improve student outcomes.
2. Implement the program with intelligence, energy, and fidelity, constantly improving the quality of implementation and outcomes.
3. Keep doing (2), well, forever.
Summer: The Missing Link in Education Reform
By Gary Huggins
Research is now underway on wide scale implementation and on sustained gains. The reality is that if we ever hope to close the persistent academic achievement gap, districts need to consider summer learning as part of their school improvement strategies. Summer school shouldn’t be seen as punitive, and shouldn’t be the first sacrifice in a tight budget year. It’s a link in the chain that’s been broken for far too long.
Evidence-Based Reform and Test-Based Accountability Are Not the Same
Among the many objections I sometimes hear to the concept of evidence-based reform in education is a concern that buying into evidence entails buying into stodgy, boring, top-down instruction. I think these concerns carry over from concerns about instruction driven by standardized testing and accountability. But evidence-based education and test-driven education are very different.
OMB to Government: Show Us the Evidence
The words “OMB” and “exciting” rarely go in the same sentence, much less “OMB” and “OMG!” Yet on May 18, Jeffrey Zients, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), sent out a memo that could change history. In guidance to executive departments and agencies, the memo asks the entire Executive Branch to use every available means to promote the use of rigorous evidence in decision-making, program administration, and planning.
Senator Lugar Will Be Missed in Education, Too
Even though Senator Lugar has never served on an education committee, he has always been interested in education. Before he was elected to the Senate, he was Mayor of Indianapolis and before that, Chairman of the Indianapolis School Board. But beyond this history, I think he just cares about the future of our country, and sees education as central to that vision.
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