When I first read Mass Insight's The Turnaround Challenge, I was thrilled by its holistic explanation of what it takes to turnaround the most challenging schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the document was his Bible, but then he violated most of its principles when establishing School Improvement Grants, dooming his SIG to failure.
In 2007, Mass Insight showed that instruction-driven, curriculum-driven policies could not transform the schools with the greatest challenges, and that the mass dismissal of teachers was a bad idea. It emphasized the "Readiness Triangle," drawing upon the best social science to explain how and why a proper foundation must be laid for school improvement. Now, Mass Insight explains why today's accountability regimes are undermining school improvement.
Let's hope that reformers listen to Mass Insight's Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies, by Elliot Regenstein, Rio Romero-Jurado, Justin Cohen, and Alison Segal. It criticizes accountability metrics that “have not set the right goals for educators.” For instance, the normative SIG approach undermines capacity-building because “current metrics effectively eliminate the viability of early learning as a potential long-term improvement strategy.”
Mass Insight notes that Arne Duncan often says he wants to be"tight on goals, loose on means," but his prescriptive school turnaround policies "have largely been just the opposite." Even better, this reform organization does something that is very rare in reform circles; it draws upon the Consortium on Chicago School Research, evidence-based systems developed for early education, and science-based accountability systems in England and the Netherlands. As it says in a previous study, Rethinking State Accountability and Support, Mass Insight is proposing "the reverse" of the Duncan value-added accountability regime.
Mass Insight proposes "metrics that address professional practice, including the quality of instruction and leadership." That is a scholarly way of stating the common sense principle that educators, like everyone else, should be evaluated on what we actually do - not some not-ready-for-prime-time statistical proxy for what we do. Once we move beyond the misuse of data for accountability, hopefully Mass Insight's latest research, along with an objective reading of The Turnaround Challenge, will inform a new science-based, holistic, and humane era of school improvement. -JT(drjohnthompson) Image via.