"What’s needed is a wholesale transformation of the public school system from the broken-down postwar model of the past 50 or 60 years. The U.S. has not yet faced up to the fact that it needs a school system capable of fulfilling the educational needs of children growing up in an era that will be at least as different from the 20th century as the 20th was from the 19th.“We’re not good at thinking about magnitudes,” said Thomas Kane, a professor of education and economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “We’ve got a bunch of little things that we think are moving in the right direction, but we haven’t stepped back and thought, ‘O.K., how big an improvement are we really talking about?’ ”
Then he gets to a tough subject, teacher quality, but with an interesting idea:
"Concerned about raising the quality of teachers, states and local school districts have consistently focused on the credentials, rather than the demonstrated effectiveness — or ineffectiveness — of teachers in the classroom.
New forms of identifying good teachers and weeding out poor ones — by carefully assessing their on-the-job performance — have to be established before any transformation of American schools can occur.
This can be done without turning the traditional system of teacher tenure on its head. Studies have clearly shown that the good teachers and the not-so-good ones can usually be identified, if they are carefully observed in their first two or three years on the job — in other words, before tenure is granted.
Developing such a system would be difficult. But it’s both doable and essential. Getting serious about teacher quality as opposed to harping on tiny variations in test scores would be like moving from a jalopy to a jet."
He also continues into the minefield with this idea:"The second area to be mined for potentially transformative effects is the wide and varied field of alternative school models. We should be rigorously studying those schools that appear to be having the biggest positive effects on student achievement. Are the effects real? If so, what accounts for them?
The Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), to cite one example, is a charter school network that has consistently gotten extraordinary academic results from low-income students. It has worked in cities big and small, and in rural areas. Like other successful models, it has adopted a longer school day and places great demands on its teachers and students."
I'm not for charters but it is worth the idea of looking in all directions for ideas to reach challenging children. I think KIPP may work well because, as a charter school, parents have to buy into and want their program. Desperate parents who want to escape failing schools may be parents willing to put the extra effort in a longer school day and more expectations.
As as been both alluded to and said outloud on this blog, parents are a key component. If the follow-thru isn't happening at home, it is just that much harder for a student to find academic success unless there strong mentorship at the school.