Francis Keppel Professor of Practice in Educational Policy and Administration at Harvard Graduate School of Education
Standards-Based Reform is a necessary but not sufficient strategy for improving school performance.
World-class standards, aligned assessments, and a fair accountability system are essential ingredients in a state’s strategy for raising the achievement of all students. But without an accompanying strategy to recruit, develop, and retain a high-quality workforce of well-prepared teachers and school leaders, school performance is unlikely to improve.
The most powerful incentives for attracting good teachers to work in high-need schools are a great principal and the opportunity to help pick one’s colleagues.
Money is a much weaker incentive than we often think in luring good teachers to work in challenging schools. It’s the working environment that really matters, and the key to that is a strong, supportive principal and a group of colleagues who buy into the mission of the school and know how to work collaboratively.
The key to retaining great teachers is to provide leadership opportunities for them that do not require them to leave the classroom.
Good teachers leave teaching for many reasons, but one consistent complaint I hear from those I talk with is the flatness of the profession. It isn’t just a compensation system that only rewards seniority and degrees; it’s the absence of career ladders within the profession that allow strong teachers to assume greater responsibility and influence within their school while continuing to work directly with students.
The best measure of college readiness is successful completion of college courses while still in high school.
The new mantra in education is, “all kids college and career-ready.” Rather than use courses taken or grade point average or test scores as proxies for college readiness, let’s take a hard look at the evidence accumulating from the Early College High School movement, where in 270 schools nationally that serve mostly low-income and minority youth, half are now leaving high school with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Helping more young people get launched on college while still in a supportive high school environment takes the guesswork out of determining who is college-ready and who is not.
Most people learn best when given an opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting.
Clinical experience is now a well-established practice in the training of physicians, architects, teachers, and other professionals. We have a lot of evidence internationally that those education systems that combine workplace and classroom education for most young people from the age of 15 or 16 get better outcomes than those that rely solely on classroom learning. If the best evidence of college readiness is success in college classrooms, then shouldn’t it follow that the best strategy to ensure career readiness is to provide opportunities for students to experience workplace success while still in school?
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Robert Schwartz has been a faculty member at Harvard Graduate School of Education since 1996, where he is currently the Francis Keppel Professor of Practice in Educational Policy and Administration. From 2006-2011 he served as the School’s Academic Dean. From 1997-2002 while a faculty member he also served as the first president of Achieve, Inc, a national non-profit established by a bipartisan group of governors and corporate leaders to help states strengthen academic performance. He previously played a variety of roles in education and government, including high school teacher in California and principal in Oregon; education advisor to Boston mayor Kevin White and Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis; executive director of The Boston Compact; and education program director at The Pew Charitable Trusts. He currently co-chairs The Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program and serves on the boards of The Education Trust, The Noyce Foundation, National Academy Foundation, The Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, the National Center on Education and the Economy, and the US Education Delivery Institute. He has written and spoken widely on such topics as standards-based reform, the transition from high school to postsecondary education and employment, and public/private partnerships. His most recent publications include Pathways to Prosperity, a 2011 report co-authored with two Harvard colleagues, and co-authored chapters on Finland and Ontario in a 2010 OECD publication, Strong Performers and Successful Reformers: Lessons from PISA for the United States. He has degrees from Harvard College and Brandeis University.