Sunday, June 21, 2009

Empowering Schools and Improving Learning: A Joint Organizational Statement on the Federal Role in Public Schooling

Check out this heavily supported proposal for the re-authorization of the federal NCLB act. It lays out some pretty good policy considerations.

One concern from my first read of this is that while the goal is to improve student learning it doesn't place enough attention on the role of teachers. Redefining teacher quality, addressing teacher shortage and turnover, and the disproportionate degree that minority students attending poor schools are in classrooms taught by teachers teaching out-of-field don't come up.


All children deserve the opportunity to succeed in high quality public schools. High quality public schools are schools where students and adults form active communities of learners, evidenced by a culture that is both supportive and challenging. They attend to the whole child and meet the individual needs and support the strengths of each child, including English language learners, students with disabilities, and students of diverse racial, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. They are well-resourced and well-staffed by qualified professionals, provide classes of a size that ensures individualized instruction and attention to each child's learning needs, and are safe, healthy and modern. Students attending these schools demonstrate ongoing progress toward important learning outcomes as indicated by a variety of sources and kinds of evidence, including classroom work, different types of assessments of progress and mastery, and grade promotion and graduation rates.

Important learning outcomes must include basic and higher order content knowledge and thinking skills in and across subject areas. Schools must have programs to provide all students with a coherent and intellectually challenging curriculum that includes 21st century critical thinking, problem solving, and high-level communication skills, and that ensures deep understanding of content. To achieve these outcomes, schools must be culturally sensitive and address different learning styles and interests through curriculum and instruction that fosters student engagement, promotes creativity, and addresses diverse experiences and needs. Schools also will collaborate with families and communities to meet the needs of the whole child -- cognitive/intellectual, social, civic, emotional, psychological, ethical, and physical -- while preparing them for successful citizenship in a multi-cultural world.

The federal government has a limited but important role to play in realizing this vision of high quality schooling for all. It should help provide the tools and resources to empower schools where students are underserved by partnering with schools, districts, states, communities, and organizations to ensure all schools are of higher quality. To ensure successful learning outcomes, the federal government also must take a strong role in addressing issues complementary to education, including health care, housing, employment, income, and community fragmentation.

Read on...

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