High Performance Systems in Education

Marc Tucker, the past head of NCEE, is writing Marc Tucker’s Blog that I think we should read. In it he writes that our research in education is focused on the outcomes from a centuries old system of education. For example, the National Assessment of Educational Progress has returned the same scores for the last fifty years of sampling in every state of the Union. More disturbing is that, “93 million adults read at a basic or below basic level and 43% of all adults are functionally illiterate. We only graduate 37% of high schools students that meet or exceed literacy skills and 8,000 kids drop out every day!” (Reading is Fundamental).

Researching High-Performance Education Systems

This is how Marc Tucker talks about the need for research into high-performance education systems:

“Ideally, a well-conceived program of research on high-performance education systems would be coupled with a new federal program designed to provide support to states interested in following in the footsteps of Kentucky, Massachusetts and, more recently, Maryland, in redesigning their whole education system for high performance, using evidence based on the study of such systems worldwide, and for the implementation of such designs. 

The goal of the comparative research program would be twofold: first, to create a mechanism that would enable our states to continuously identify and monitor the highest-performing systems nationwide and worldwide to establish the global performance benchmarks as they evolve; second, to analyze the factors that account for their success; and, third, to analyze and report on the performance of U.S. state education systems in relation to those benchmarks.”

Marc Tucker’s Blog

The Missing Research Agenda

The missing research agenda in education is the “factors that account for success in large-scale education systems,” says Marc Tucker’s Blog. Measuring the old system instead of creating a new system with better indicators of success is part of the problem with why our education system is stuck. The new paradigm needs to be successful with every student in reading, writing, math, social studies and sciences…but also with comprehension, analysis, evaluation and creativity skill-sets.

Missing Indicators: Systems Integration

Examples of indicators of success for the old system are attendance, advanced placement participation, and scores on tests of content memory. New indicators are needed, and in my next blog, I will spend some time suggesting those improved indicators especially from my work on creativity, engagement and the arts. It was the process of studying how to integrate the arts that brought me around to understanding the system failure, and the possible solutions to this failure that might lead to success.

Reform is Not the Answer

As an example of how this might work in the future, consider the use of creativity in schools. Motivating students to learn by asking them to do more than memorize—and actually create and construct new knowledge is the next system challenge. Asking students for creative solutions to problems would both motivate them to learn and require much more rigorous work. An example of how this is not happening is when the Common Core was rolled out, hardly any teachers in America were taught well how to use it well with their students. Then, we decided to measure it with old standardized tests that emphasize coverage instead of higher-order thinking skills. No change to our educational system has resulted from all of these years of these types of reform.

Systems Integration

Systems of education now need to be designed for much better integration of experience and integration of thinking, resulting in students who have integration smarts to solve our next most difficult problems in our society.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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