What We Can Learn From the Countries With Schools That Outperform Ours

Do we have the best public education system in the world?

Short answer, “No.” 

Long answer, “It’s complicated.” 

In the U.S. we are pursuing the seemingly competing goals of: 

1. Teach for equity; and  2. Teach for excellence. 

We do neither the best, but in combination…

I have to admit the above statement stings, a lot.  I think we should and can be the best at both.  But we won’t get there following the path we are currently on.  We will have to chart a new path. A path defined by embracing more of the things that work and letting go of the practices driven by opinion and a skewed world-view.  Now charting a new path sounds like macro-level change, beyond the scope and resources of the rank and file teacher, principal and even superintendent.  But I don’t believe that is the case.  I truly believe that a handful of focused and motivated individuals can team together and change a system.  This can be the case in our profession.  You and your team can be the trailblazers.

In preparation of this trailblazing endeavor, let’s review what we have learned from the schools in countries that regularly outperform us.      

1. Have students spend more time engaged in academic activities.

– Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

2. A coaching relationship with students is more productive than a cheerleading relationship.

– Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator

3. Improve the quality of teaching candidates.

– Influencing Agents: Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

4. Train teachers like their job is important.

– Influencing Agents: Campus Administrator, District Administrator   5. Track students less and when you do track students, do so much later in their academic careers.

– Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator  

6. Fund schools based on the needs of the students.

– Influencing Agents: District Administrator, Voter  

7. Have common standards but don’t have too many of them.

– Influencing Agents: Teacher, Campus Administrator, District Administrator, Voter

Compare your campus improvement plan to the seven practices listed above.  If you plan doesn’t address at least three of the practices on the list, I would suggest that you re-work your plan.

Think. Work. Achieve. Your turn…

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