About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Thompson: Once Again, Mass Insight Explains What It takes to Turn Around Schools*

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 and Ounce of Prevention explain why today's accountability regimes are undermining school improvement.

Let's hope that reformers listen to Mass Insight's and the Ounce of Prevention Fund's Changing the Metrics of Turnaround to Encourage Early Learning Strategies, by Elliot Regenstein, Rio Romero-Jurado, Justin Cohen, and Alison Segal. As it says in a previous study, Rethinking State Accountability and Support, Ounce proposes "the reverse" of the Arne Duncan value-added accountability regime. 

This new analysis 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 and Ounce note that 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, these reform organizations do something that is very rare in k-12 reform circles; they draw upon the excellent research ranging from that of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and evidence-based systems developed for early education.

This outstanding scholarship calls for "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 and Ounce'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)

*This is a revised version of the original post, clarifying the Mass Insight/Ounce distinction.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

In this case, it is important to use Action Research to evaluate and measure what educators actually do and how their skills can be improved. I am for more Action Research to occur in the education systems. It is a practical way to make improvements when it matters. If a very detailed and lengthy research study is used to measure an educators performance, the data produced will be too old and insignificant.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.