The following article, excerpted below, appeared in the Fresno Bee (10-28):
"Classroom lessons covering California's educational standards and using students' test scores to coach teachers and hold principals accountable are what make the biggest difference in test-score success, according to a report released Wednesday by EdSource….
"The researchers studied 257 elementary schools with large numbers of low-income students, students struggling with English and students whose parents had no education beyond high school or had not finished high school….
"The highest-scoring schools:
- Had high expectations for students and set testing goals higher than what was set by the state.
- Had curriculum that closely followed California standards for each grade and covered material in annual state tests.
- Extensively used students' scores on multiple tests to help design lesson plans, to evaluate teachers' skills, and to hold principals accountable.
- Had certified teachers that had at least five years of experience.
- Were in school districts that set clear expectations and provided adequate facilities, textbooks and extra tutoring for struggling students.
"‘A lot of this stuff to noneducators seems like "Well yeah,"’ said Trish Williams, executive director of EdSource, [an independent, nonprofit policy organization]. ‘But for decades, each district, and often each school set their own curriculum…. Now we have very specific content standards. This concept of tight alignment from one grade to the next is really, for a lot of schools, a new kind of strategy.’
"Williams said she was surprised at the extent schools were analyzing test data to adjust lesson plans for whole classrooms, as well as for individual students.
"The best schools had principals who used test scores to identify where teachers were weak and strong. Schools that scored better were in districts that evaluated principals on how well they could analyze test scores and direct their schools.
"‘Evaluations are based on student achievement, not the softer, qualitative, warm fuzzy stuff,’ Williams said. ‘It's more objective and clear from top to bottom. And we found in these higher-scoring schools, the teachers say they are responsible for student achievement.’…
"‘There is an argument by some teachers and principals that they don't like the more tightly aligned curriculum because they feel it limits creativity,’ Williams said. ‘But if it's done in a nurturing, supportive environment, it doesn't have to. And as a parent, I'd want to know my child is learning what the state decides is important.’"
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