Tuesday, August 9, 2016

No Time to Lose: National Council of State Legislatures weighs in on the post-NCLB universe

The National Council of State Legislatures after 18 months of study today released a report on what successful school systems around the world are doing. Their interest is in influencing the post-NCLB, state-focused, U.S. education universe. The full report can be downloaded here.
NPR has a good summary of the first three points in their report:

1: More Help For The Youngest Learners In the U.S., poverty is a powerful drag on the youngest learners, with too many children showing up to kindergarten both hungry and lacking important cognitive and noncognitive skills. Research suggests that preschool, when done well, can have a profound impact on children's lives, but too often in the U.S. it's done badly or not at all...
2: Teachers Need To Be Better And, in this case, "better" is a big tent. The report's authors say it starts when future teachers are still students...Once these top-flight teachers enter the classroom, they also enter a very different professional reality — one that involves as much training as teaching. In some places, the report says, just "30 percent to 35 percent of a teacher's time is spent teaching students, while the rest is spent on activities such as working in teams with other teachers to develop and improve lessons, observing and critiquing classes, and working with struggling students." Too often in the U.S., teachers work in isolation, cut off from their fellow teachers. In contrast, Stephenson says, many high-performing countries have embraced a team-teaching model, where newer teachers are constantly observing veteran teachers and being observed, fine-tuning their skills in real time. Overseas, observation is about improvement — not just accountability. And then there's pay. Yes, other nations have higher standards for their teachers, but with those standards come increased respect and pay, on par with engineers and accountants. Imagine that. 
3: Fix Career And Technical Education (CTE) You know, the classes formerly known as "voc-ed" — auto repair, welding, carpentry, etc. The report suggests that, in the U.S., many schools have failed to adapt their CTE offerings to fit the needs of the modern economy, preparing students for jobs of the past instead of matching them with today's employers. It's strange given the mantra heard often from U.S. policymakers and educators, that today's schools should prepare students to be "college and career ready." In reality, Takumi, the Hawaii Democrat, says many schools "have kind of pushed career to the side." As a result, too often students need college in order to be career ready. To make matters worse, in the U.S. CTE also has a perception problem. Stephenson, the Utah Republican, says "it is considered a second tier for low-performing students. ... That is our tradition in America." . It's a chicken-or-egg problem. Whether that perception created the current reality or was created by it, both need to change.
The fourth item is "reforms that are connected and aligned as parts of a clearly planned and carefully designed comprehensive systems," which is not only difficult to summarize: it's also difficult to do.

It'll be interesting and informative to see which states do anything about any of this at all. 

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