Just released: Research Paper on How to Achieve More in Education, even with less

It's a been a year since I completed this research paper. I spent several months doing my own research, talking and corresponding with experts in the education field such as Liv Finne from the Washington Policy Center, Jon Rochkind of Public Agenda, Barry McCurdy of Institute of Clinical Training & Research, and many more. I owe them, and the many other sources cited in the paper, my great thanks. What came out of it was an honest and direct look at one of the root causes of many of the problems facing education today -- that of students who lack the social skills, emotional/character development and abilities to be successful in the classroom.

While the negative impacts of this problem are wide-spread, I chose to focus on only two specific areas: classroom productivity and teacher attrition.  The research paper is also specific to Washington State (my home state), but the information in it can easily be applied to any state in the nation, or extrapolated nationwide as I frequently do when speaking to education groups on this topic.

In the year since I completed the paper, I have spent many hours sharing the information privately and selectively to my local legislators, other education officials, and influential individuals.  I've been struggling with how to make this information more accessible, and it seems the time is right to offer it up to more public access.

You can read the paper's Executive Summary here -- there's also an area by which you can request to download the full copy of the paper.  I welcome your comments and feedback on this critical and grossly overlooked area.

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WA State – Still behind in RTTT

Round two of Race to the Top is now over and the results are in.  My own State of Washington didn't make the cut. No one is really surprised; our state didn't even participate in Round 1. 

I guess where I continue to be, not "surprised" so much as disappointed is the continued emphasis on teacher and principal evaluation.  I don't mean that knowing whether teachers and principals are effective is a bad thing, but it's what and how these measurements are made that I think is problematic. (more…)

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Raising the quality of education doesn’t require more dollars

Of course budgets are seriously on the minds of school and district administrators these days -- we all know times are tough and the schools are looking at cuts.  Recently, an article in eSchoolNews made me stop and say, "Hey, wait a minute!" ("Survey: School budget cuts even worse next year"). In this article, school leaders said that the current budget shortfalls they were seeing were going to "threaten their ability to implement new technologies, raise the quality of instruction in their classrooms, and close achievement gaps among students."

That's where I sat up and took notice.

Ok, I can see where not having the money you hoped for would put plans for new tools such as technology on hold. But, notice the other things they talked about -- "raise the quality of instruction" and closing achievement gaps.

“Raising the quality of instruction” has very little to do with money, as it happens. One way to increase the quality and outcomes of instruction has to do with improving teacher effectiveness in the classroom. And, by that I don’t mean “get better teachers” — there are a lot of great teachers out there who aren’t able to do what they set out to do because of unruly and disruptive students. And THAT problem can bleed literally millions of dollars out of schools and districts every year.

It also has other “financial” effects like decreased absenteeism — get more students to come to school on a regular basis and you return money to the schools’ bottom line. Cut down on teachers who leave the profession because of burn-out due to poor student behavior and you’ll reduce the money needed to recruit and hire new ones.

Oh, and if you decrease the amount of time wasted in the classroom, repurpose that into learning, you’ll see better test scores.

Same with closing the achievement gap. One of the reason low-income, minority, and non-native students lag behind is because they are generally more vulnerable to not having acquired the social skills they need to be optimally prepared for classroom life.  If they enter the school system behind in these critical areas, they tend to continue behind without extra intervention in these areas and it has a negative effect on everything from academic achievement to the type of job they get when they leave school.

Making improvements in all of these areas does not require more budget.  In fact you can do all this within the same, or even reduced budgets. One requirement: enlightened thinking on the part of administrators to consider other alternatives that don't require additional funding. When the constant mantra in the last 40 years has been "We need more money for education," that's a tough change to make.  I think it's one that's needed because we'll never be able to tax and spend our way into better education.  That math doesn't add up.

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