by Sue Legg
Where do we go from here? We need to learn about practical solutions being tried within public schools. Which communities have generated the political will to equalize access to quality schools for all students? How are districts equalizing funding, facilities, and quality instruction? How are schools meeting these challenges?
“Where do we go from here?”
League members are in action. It is what we do. Last month Florida League members went to Washington D.C. We met with aides for Florida Senators Rubio and Nelson. We followed those meetings with a discussion at the U.S. Department of Education about the impact of privatization of schools in Florida. Deputy Secretary Shelton acknowledged the validity of our concerns and pledged assistance in identifying innovative, effective programs to close the achievement gap.
This week we received notice that the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has launched a similar effort called the “Schools for Opportunity Project”. The NEPC study will initially identify Colorado public high schools that use research based instructional strategies rather than test scores to close the achievement gap. At last attention is turning toward solutions that focus upon the problem rather than on an ideology.
The League study found that privatizing schools creates more problems than it solves. Dividing resources among public, charter and private schools ensures inadequate funding for all. Testing has increased, and accountability is not working well. After 15 years of trial and error, achievement gaps remain; some students continue to do well, others do not. It is time to ask: How do we make a difference? We know the problems choice systems create: fiscal mismanagement, unequal standards, high teacher turnover, and re-segregation. Continuous discussion of these problems without reasonable alternatives creates rancor or resignation. Let’s also report on studies that that focus on what works.
Let’s report on strategies to close the achievement gap. Here are some that are being implemented in Texas based on Roland Fryer’s work at EdLabs. Are there others?
- more instructional time and support for struggling students.
access to technology without destroying good teaching.
better instruction through collaboration and effective instructional support.
high quality learning environments that reflect our social and economic diversity.
effective programs for students with special interests and needs.
strong Pre-K programs to ensure school readiness.