The Math Forum

Search All of the Math Forum:

Views expressed in these public forums are not endorsed by NCTM or The Math Forum.

Math Forum » Discussions » Education » math-teach

Notice: We are no longer accepting new posts, but the forums will continue to be readable.

Topic: School Improvement Ideas Beyond Our Borders
Replies: 0  

Advanced Search

Back to Topic List Back to Topic List  
Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
School Improvement Ideas Beyond Our Borders
Posted: Oct 11, 2013 5:20 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply
att1.html (8.8 K)

From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, October 2, 2013, Volume 33, Issue 06, pp. 26-27. See

Looking for School Improvement Ideas Beyond Our Borders

By Helen Janc Malone

As we move forward with the implementation of the Common Core State
Standards, reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education
Act, and preparations for celebrating the 60th anniversary of Brown
v. Board of Education, it is imperative that we stop for a moment and
think critically about what kind of educational system we want for
our children in the 21st century. And, of equal importance, how do we
get from here to there? One way to approach this complex task is to
look outside ourselves, beyond the United States' borders, and
consider what other nations have done or are doing to transform their
educational systems.

Why look globally for inspiration and ideas?

U.S. school reformers are designing innovative approaches to
educational improvement; however, such strategies reside on the
margins, as our schooling system remains largely unchanged. We have
considerable work left to close the achievement and opportunity gaps,
to increase high school graduation rates, and to boost
college-completion and career-training levels. Our students'
performance on the Program for International Student Assessment, or
PISA, not only shows an average standing among developed countries
but also highlights the differences across demographic lines, further
emphasizing the need to rethink what learning supports we offer to
our students, particularly low-income students and students of color.

Although, as a nation, we have made progress on student-learning
outcomes, we appear to be making incremental changes rather than
finding sustainable solutions to our pressing education problems.
Global perspectives might illuminate a different path.

What lessons could we draw from other nations?

Finnish, Singaporean, and South Korean PISA scores have been splashed
across U.S. headlines, leading to a national outcry to improve our
education system as a way to stay competitive and "win" the
international test-score race. However, when we look deeper into the
international benchmarking, our debate appears to be bifurcated
between two sentiments: (a) that other countries are too different
for us to learn from them and, thus, we should stick with
domestic-only innovations; or (b) that we could cherry-pick reforms
applied by leading education nations and transplant them in the
United States in hopes that the selected strategies would turn our
schools around. Either view presents us with a false choice: to
ignore other education systems altogether or to look for a silver
bullet while disregarding contextual factors that interact in complex

Researchers from six continents, representing 15 countries, and I
took on the challenge of unpacking what lessons we could draw from
international benchmarking in concert with our domestic innovations.
In a recently published book, Leading Educational Change: Global
Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform [see ], we argue that
educational change cannot happen only at the top but, rather, it must
transform the learning process throughout an entire system, inside
classrooms, within communities, within districts, and at state and
federal levels. We also argue that educational change cannot happen
in a piecemeal fashion. It must simultaneously address instructional
practices; equity and educational justice; accountability and
assessment; and the role we, as a society, play in supporting student
learning and development.

What we, as a nation, ought to consider is that leading countries
address education comprehensively, integrating several aspects of
schooling simultaneously.

As my colleagues-including Andy Hargreaves, Dennis Shirley, Alma
Harris, and Pak Tee Ng-argue in the book, top-performing countries:

* View education as a collective responsibility of paramount
importance to their social, economic, and cultural sustainability and
support the notion that advancing quality education for all students
leads to an increased standard of living, innovation, national pride,
and progress;
* Invest in human capital by recruiting only top high school
graduates into teaching, putting them through a rigorous university
training program, supporting them throughout their professional
careers via ongoing development, and giving them a voice to inform
education policy and shape curriculum and instructional practices
inside their schools and classrooms;
* Build equitable systems whereby all students have access to support
services based on their individual needs in order to ensure academic
readiness, success, and preparation for career, life, and citizenship;
* Balance external and internal accountability, focusing on
professional responsibility over the results of high-stakes
standardized tests alone; and
* Have a guiding vision that drives education policy beyond political
election cycles and quick-fix fads.

Finland exemplifies the tenets of meaningful educational change: The
country has created a shared vision for education that did not
involve being among the top PISA performers. Instead, according to
Pasi Sahlberg [see
], the director of the Center for International Mobility and
Cooperation at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, the
country invested in quality teachers, wraparound services for
students, and frequent school-based diagnostic assessments to inform
instructional practices; and focused on building a system of support
on every level. The country's decades-long commitment to education as
a vehicle for national success has added fuel needed to invest,
innovate, and progress, thus leading to positive student-achievement

How do we apply international ideas domestically?

International lessons offer us learning opportunities that in
combination with our domestic considerations could lead to better
education policies. We have to acknowledge that education is a
complex endeavor, and that our policies cannot focus on one big idea
that could change with every election. We have to approach education
as a puzzle in which investing in pre-K-16 involves many pieces that
have to fall into place: equitable resources; human-capital
development; engaging learning environments and experiences; broad
stakeholder involvement; and a mechanism to measure a comprehensive
set of outcomes we can learn from and improve upon.

Our education system has to be about building knowledgeable and
engaged lifelong learners. In our new blog, International
Perspectives on Education Reform, the contributors to Leading
Educational Change and I will challenge the conventional thinking
around these issues, and we invite you to join the conversation. [see ]
Helen Janc Malone is an education researcher whose work centers on
educational change, whole-system reform, expanded learning, and K-16
pathways. She is the director of institutional advancement at the
Washington-based Institute for Educational Leadership and the editor
of Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons
on Whole-System Reform, which was released in September by Teachers
College Press.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

Point your RSS reader here for a feed of the latest messages in this topic.

[Privacy Policy] [Terms of Use]

© The Math Forum at NCTM 1994-2018. All Rights Reserved.