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December 2, 2006

Additional Notes on "What it Takes to Make a Student"

Joanne Jacobs:

Last night at the Hunt Institute retreat for North Carolina legislators, the former governor, Jim Hunt, handed out copies he’d underlined to everyone there, urging the legislators to “read every word.”

Schools like KIPP and Amistad [Clusty on Amistad] that succeed in educating low-income students tend to do three things well, Education Gadfly points out.

Students are required to be in school longer-much longer-than their peers in traditional public schools.

Pupils are tested, and re-tested, to measure achievement. Lesson plans, teaching strategies, even whole curricula are adjusted based on how well, or poorly, students are learning what they should. Moreover, teachers are closely monitored and constantly working to improve their skills.

Students’ behavior and values are aggressively shaped by school leaders and instructors.

What is complicated, however, is implementing these changes within today’s rule-bound, bureaucratic system, with its collective bargaining constraints, bureaucratic regulations, and the inertia of 100-plus years of public education. It’s no coincidence that all of Tough’s profiled schools are charters, and as such have the freedom to do things differently and take control of their own destinies. In turn, this greater autonomy allows them to attract many top-notch, talented, and energetic teachers who are willing to work long hours for mediocre pay because they yearn for a results-oriented, break-the-rules environment. Replicating this atmosphere in the traditional system would be hard-maybe even impossible. But expanding charter schools–and getting more good ones-is no easy feat, either.

Dennis Doyle adds a few thoughts.

Posted by James Zellmer at December 2, 2006 10:23 AM
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