Transforming High School Teaching & Learning: A District Wide Design

Judy Wurtzel, Senior Fellow, the Aspen Institute: Full report:
250K PDF

Significant improvements in student learn ing require real change at the heart of instruction: the interaction of students and teachers around the content to be learned. This paper suggests a set of design specifications for strengthening this interaction of student, teacher and content and increasing student performance across a school district.
These designs have six components. The first two focus on what the job of effective high school teaching looks like and on getting and keeping teachers who can do this job. They offer a new teacher “job description” that places accountability for results and the use and refinement of effective practices at the core of teaching and also suggest approaches for recruiting and retaining high school teachers who have the will and capacity to embrace this job description and increase student learning. The next four components describe an infrastructure for improving high school instruction that is consistent with this new job description, that provides the concrete supports needed to help new and veteran teachers know what and how to teach effectively, that enablesteachers to elicit higher performance from their students,
and that rests on a teacher-based system for continuously improving results.
These six components are:

  1. A new vision of teacher professionalism that supports instructional improvement
  2. A comprehensive strategy to attract and retain highly effective high school teachers
  3. Clear expectations for high school instructional practices
  4. Anchor standards and aligned assessments that support effective instruction
  5. Core curriculum, common lessons and tools based on the anchor standards and assessments
  6. A system to build teacher capacity