We have set goals for all students, goals that are higher than ever before. Achieving these goals requires improving teaching in classrooms, the opportunities that students have to learn. Because we are not where we want to be, we need to build on our successes, learning what works and what does not and using this information to innovate and improve. Policies and practices at all levels set the stage for whether such continuous improvement can happen.
In addition to needing clear goals, we need flexibility to try new things, information about what is and what works, time to learn from this information, clear accountability to recognize success and reduce failure, and, perhaps most importantly, people with skills and energy to create and maintain such a dynamic system. Recent changes in entry requirements for teachers show that policies can dramatically affect who is in the classroom. Innovations in curriculum, instructional materials, collaboration, professional development, and administration could also provide essential information.
The needs are complex and require a system that recognizes this complexity, building on what we know to make each element better, improving students’ opportunities, and reaching our goals.