In preparation for a community conversation, an urban newspaper publisher asked me what I would do to dramatically improve academic outcomes in his city. Here’s a quick three part answer:
1.Build support for high expectations. Everything good in education starts with expectations clearly communicated. The Common Core State Standards are helping to clarify real college and career ready standards. The secret is bringing them to life for the community—making high expectations visible for teachers, parents and students. Building support for high expectations is a great place to use outside voices of employers and higher ed representatives. The fact that reported proficiency levels are likely to drop as new standards are implemented demands a community conversation. Administrators can model Common Core tasks by writing about reading challenging texts. Recognizing student work that reflects Common Core expectations in a portfolio of actor papers is another great strategy. Achieve published a comprehensive roadmap to implementing Common Core State Standards.
2. Create a high quality portfolio of options. The first step in creating a system of quality options is use schools results to define the relationship with the school district: high performing and autonomous, improving with support, or scheduled to be closed and replaced. After triage, it’s time to drive school improvement and new school development. Here’s a white paper that describes Good Urban Schools: A Portfolio Approach. Center for Reinventing Public Education has a whole portfolio of reports on implementing the portfolio strategy. This is the best source of advice for urban education leaders.
3. Phase in the shift to personal digital learning. Districts should build a three year plan to create high access environments, support the adoption of blended school models, and attract new online options. School improvement and development offer a great opportunity to incorporate models that combine the best of online and onsite learning. As outlined in Digital Learning Now, every student should have access to a digital portfolio of great teachers and great content. Districts have about 26 months to get ready for online assessment. Implementation will require a relatively high level of access and adequate broadband. As recommended bySETDA, schools should have Internet connections of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2014‐15 and of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2017-18.