Achieving Excellence in Management: Identifying and Learning from Bad Practices

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Practice was guided by the theory that children need deep knowledge to ask rich questions and use higher-level skills. Teachers recognised collaborative planning was essential for making sure activities and skills became increasingly complex and children were not just repeating things they had already learned. Two provisionally certificated teachers told us how they managed the approach when they first came to the school:. We really like the structure of the curriculum; it is an anchor we use to plan for our children.

1. Achieving excellence and equity to reduce disparities

For example, when we did sustainability, we looked at the garbage patch or managing all the rubbish in some of the Pacific Islands. We also give kids the chance to do more independent work as well as time to work together. We also like the collaboration between syndicates at staff meetings as we get to see where the children have come from and what they are going to later.

These formed the basis of the oral language programme that was tightly integrated into each unit. Each syndicate then identified the expected learning in selected learning areas. Ongoing discussions took place during the term. Units were reviewed at syndicate level and then school level. These reviews were the starting point for planning when the topic was revisited in subsequent years.

Leaders understood that teachers needed to know what they were teaching and children knew what they were expected to learn. Teachers deliberately boosted vocabulary and responded to gaps in background knowledge. Comprehensive guidelines gave teachers advice about how to do this. The skills progressions were well known and used. When planning for each term, teachers and leaders would discuss them in detail as they decided which concepts and skills they would focus on in their teaching.

Teachers shared the skills progressions and success criteria with their students. This helped the children know what they had to do to achieve success, and gave them the means to assess their own progress. You have the skills and knowledge to help your child learn and grow.

Introduction: Achieving Excellence Through Equity for Every Student

Your wonderful language and experiences are gifts you can share. Helping your child learn at home has benefited you child, your family and the school. What your child already knows about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information and skills. Part of one child's home learning on the theme of sustaianability. As the end of each term approached, learning activities related to the next inquiry unit went home for children and their families to work on during the holidays.

The three teaching teams created home learning activities. In Years 3 to 6, the focus was on the children exploring with parents what they already knew, necessary vocabulary, and what they wanted to discover more about. Each term parents were invited to the school to collect the home learning pack.

Parents who wanted extra support could participate in workshops, where possible motivating strategies would be discussed, or meet with teachers to go through the activities. Parental, staff, and community support grows. In other chapters that follow, leaders describe their initial fears and the ensuing conflict and anger that erupted in the community over educational changes, like making AP classes accessible to all students in the district.

In such cases, even some of the most ardent detractors to equity eventually became champions of change. The alternative to equity is catastrophic.

Book Detail

The ninth, in which the trapped enemy has no means of escape, was described as the most treacherous to the apparent victor, and should be avoided at all costs, because the prevailing army would face an enemy with "nothing to lose. As we have seen inequities widen and despair grow in communities where poverty has become deeply entrenched, more and more people have come to the conclusion that they have no possibility of improving their lives.

When hope disappears, some become despondent and turn to substance abuse while others come to the conclusion that they want change now and that they have nothing to lose. In some countries, this has led to revolutions most recently, the "Arab Spring" , and more recently it has produced social upheaval in the United States in communities like Ferguson, MO. However, we also have rare examples like that of South Africa, where we have seen hope expand through advances in equity albeit very slowly. This was made possible by the enlightened leadership of the African National Congress, which assumed power without punishing the White minority.

Rather than trading places with their former oppressors and inflicting pain on the White minority, Mandela and his allies opted to dismantle the system of apartheid instead. It is increasingly clear that if we do not address the profound inequities in education, the disparities in learning opportunities that are behind the so-called achievement gap, our entire society will be imperilled. Pursuing excellence through equity is a genuine alternative. In the pages ahead we demonstrate how this can be done by nothing less than a paradigm shift from our current one-size-fits-all factory model, the inevitable outcome of which is failure and hopelessness for increasing numbers of children, to a system that celebrates individual differences and serves the needs of every student.

The transition from a paradigm in crisis to a new one from which a new tradition of normal science can emerge is far from a cumulative process … Rather it is a reconstruction of the field from new fundamentals, a reconstruction that changes some of the field's most elementary theoretical generalizations … When the transition is complete, the profession will have changed its view of the field, its methods, and its goals.

Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , 84— This book is about how to create schools and learning communities where all students are able to thrive. Instead of being defined by their behavior e.


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This means that educators must take time to get to know all students so that they can spend time cultivating talents and build on their potential. By building on strengths and addressing the factors that underlie learning difficulties and behavior problems, educators are in a better position to instill confidence and, ultimately, promote independence. Instead of schools that practice a form of triage—giving the best resources to those regarded as having the most potential, and the least to those perceived as too troubled or inferior to be worthy of a quality education, we need schools that are committed to the success of every child; where the learning needs of all children can be served.

Equity is premised upon a recognition that because all children are different there must be a deep commitment to meet the needs of every child in order to ensure that each student receives what he or she needs to grow and develop and ultimately to succeed. As we have stated, creating a school community in which excellence through equity is the ultimate objective would be transformational, not only for the disadvantaged but for all students. The good news is that this is an attainable goal.

We know this because this goal is steadfastly being pursued in a small number of classrooms, schools, and districts right now. It is also a central feature of educational policy in some nations. This book includes many illustrations of how the commitment to excellence through equity is being achieved with different types of children. The contributors provide insights into the strategies that have been used and the challenges they have faced.

We are convinced that by exercising persistence and courageous leadership the subject of the final section of this chapter , these successes can be replicated in other settings across the United States.

However, we realize that for the pursuit of excellence and equity to occur on a larger scale we need much more than a new set of reform strategies. We need a new paradigm to guide us; one that can help us to escape the assumption that there must be winners and losers and that can free us from zero-sum thinking that presently limits us. A new paradigm is much more than a new policy, strategy, or set of practices and techniques. A new paradigm is premised on a different epistemological outlook that makes it possible for us to see our work through a different lens.

According to Thomas Kuhn, author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions , shifts in paradigms occur when scientists encounter anomalies that can no longer be explained by the paradigm that previously provided the framework for scientific inquiry. A paradigm, in Kuhn's view, is an entire worldview that defines the basic features of the landscape of knowledge that scientists can identify around them. Although Kuhn thought of paradigms exclusively in reference to science, we can apply the concept, with some degree of modification, to education.

In American education, the paradigm that has guided our thinking about teaching and learning has been rooted in the belief that intelligence is an innate property that can be measured and assessed Lehman, It is also intimately tied to the concept of meritocracy, the notion that society should be organized on the basis of merit e. The meritocratic ideal gave rise to the development of intelligence tests that were used in the early 20th century to identify the capabilities of individuals and rationalize promotions and ranks within the military, admissions to colleges and universities, and in some cases, job placements Fischer, In many respects, the concept of meritocracy was an advance over the beliefs and practices of the 19th century that rationalized slavery, the subordination of women, and other forms of discrimination.

This is because it was well-aligned to the emerging notion of the American dream; the idea that in this country, intelligence, hard work, and natural talent would be rewarded and have greater value than inherited privilege. Of course, the concept of meritocracy is undermined by the fact that those with inherited wealth and privilege still retain considerable advantage over others. Affluent parents are less dependent on schools.

Introduction: Achieving Excellence Through Equity for Every Student

They typically have access to a wide variety of resources that make it possible for their children to keep ahead. Nonetheless, the emergence of the ideal of meritocracy was an important step forward because it introduced the notion that achievement should serve as the basis for organizing social hierarchies rather than race, class, religion, or other inherited forms of privilege. Yet, despite the advances achieved under the meritocracy paradigm, it has clearly outlived its usefulness.

In most schools throughout the United States, a child's race, socioeconomic status, and zip code continues to predict not only how well he or she will do in school but also the quality of school he or she will attend. While it is certainly good to reward talent and effort, it is also important to recognize that some children are denied the opportunity to have their talents developed because their families lack the time and resources to invest in them, and the schools they attend are often unable to develop their latent abilities.

Too many students possess talents and potential that are unrecognized in school, especially when their parents lack the ability to advocate for their educational needs. The current approach to educating children has left us with millions who leave school disinterested in learning and unprepared for work, college, or the challenges of life in the 21st century. If we truly seek to ensure that all children have the opportunity to develop their potential, we will need a new approach to teaching and learning, one that matches what we now know about the nature of intelligence.

We need a new paradigm in order to move beyond the fear and trepidation that keeps us clinging to the idea that there must be winners and losers and that allows us to accept the failure of so many children in so many schools. High drop-out rates and pervasive failure, particularly in schools serving poor children, are by-products of the meritocracy paradigm that allowed us to believe that individual talent and grit are all that's needed to overcome society's obstacles.

In order to free ourselves from the traditions and practices that keep us locked in predictable patterns of success and failure, we must embrace a new paradigm, one that makes it possible to pursue excellence through equity for all. If we want to create schools where all students have the opportunity to be challenged and stimulated, and where their talents can be cultivated, we need a different paradigm to guide our schools. When the law was enacted in , for the first time in U. It was a bold idea except the only evidence schools were required to look for was how well students performed on standardized tests.

While testing, and assessment generally, is an important tool that can be used to monitor learning and even more beneficial when used to diagnose learning needs , NCLB has actually reinforced the notion that students can or should be judged based on how well they perform on tests. In many schools it has also led to a narrowing of the curriculum. Art, music, and even physical education are not tested subjects, so in many schools they are treated as extras that can be cut when resources are scarce or to create more time for subjects that will be tested.

Sadly, rather than moving us forward, NCLB has reinforced the tendency to make premature and often inaccurate judgments about the abilities of children and has left the so-called achievement gap, which it was designed to ameliorate, largely untouched. The new paradigm we are offering for achieving excellence through equity is grounded in knowledge derived from three important areas of research: While awareness about the importance of these three sources of knowledge to education has been around for many years, what we think is new is a recognition of how the three interact and can be used to meet the needs of individual students and guide the development of educational policy and practice.

As we briefly spell out the specific aspects of what we think of as the three pillars of the paradigm, throughout the book we pay particular attention to their interaction and application. For the longest time, educational theory and practice has been guided by research in child development. The early architects of formal education e. A central theme in the literature that has guided this work is the recognition that while child development followed typical patterns that correspond to age, there are also significant variations in how and when children acquire skills during different stages.

Individual differences, differences in social context, and differences in culture have all been recognized as having bearing on the development process. For example, while it is common for most children to learn to walk sometime between 8 and 15 months, or to learn to use the potty independently sometime between age 2 and 4, the range for what is considered normal in acquiring these skills is quite broad. In recent years, educational practice has been less aligned with knowledge and research derived from child development.

As policy makers have become more focused on holding schools accountable for producing evidence of student achievement as measured by performance on standardized tests, recognition of how variations in child development relate to reaching milestones such as learning to read has increasingly been ignored. Since the adoption of NCLB and its accompanying mandate for schools to produce evidence that students were achieving "average yearly progress" in math and literacy Brooks-Gunn, et al.

As we will show in the pages ahead, schools and academic programs that are committed to the principle of pursuing excellence through equity strive to address the developmental needs of each student. In fact, many attempt to personalize learning for their students in order to ensure that their needs are met. While personalized learning plans may seem beyond the skills and resources of most schools, a number of new innovations in the field of education are making it possible.

However, even when schools and academic programs that are committed to excellence and equity do not have access to such resources, some are still devising creative strategies to meet student needs. For example, rather than assuming that all students should read with proficiency by the third grade, some of the educators we feature in these chapters have developed practices grounded in an understanding of child development that make it possible for English language learners and children who learn differently e.

This is not a matter of lowering expectations or accepting that some children won't learn to read; it is simply an approach rooted in the recognition that not all children learn to read at the same pace. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to encourage high school students to take rigorous math courses such as Algebra and Geometry, some schools have figured out that if a student's literacy skills are not strong enough to comprehend complex word problems, it might not make sense to require such courses unless additional literacy support can be provided.

As we will show, when such an approach was implemented at Brockton High School, it not only benefited the large number of English language learners at the school; it also helped the large number of students that entered high school with limited literacy skills. In each of the examples that will be shared in the pages ahead, the educators, schools, and programs demonstrate a profound recognition that understanding and responding to the developmental needs of each student is the only way to ensure that they will receive the education they need.

In recent years, neuroscientists have gone from regarding the brain as a static organ that undergoes few changes after early childhood, to understanding that the neural pathways and synapses that wire the brain go through ongoing changes in response to behavior, the environment, and neural processes. The term neuroplasticity has been used to describe the ability of the brain to continue developing through neuronal activation in response to stimulation and experience.

Research on the brain has significant implications for how we think about how children learn. For years, schools have relied on testing to sort students into groups or tracks, presumably for the purpose of efficiently meeting their learning needs. These practices have persisted despite evidence from research on tracking that has shown that such practices almost always result in separating students by race and SES.

When this occurs, invariably low-income and minority students are consistently more likely to be placed in slow and remedial groups, while the most affluent and privileged children are generally placed in the advanced groups Oakes, Given what we know about the elasticity of the brain, these practices are not only outdated and uninformed by the latest research; they also deny numerous children the right and opportunity to have their learning needs met. According to Fischer and Bidell , "The brain is remarkably plastic, even in middle or old age, it's still adapting very actively to its environment" p.

Furthermore, when teachers understand that learning is facilitated by the formation of new or stronger neural connections, they are able to prioritize activities that help students tap into already-existing pathways by integrating academic subjects or devising class projects that are relevant to their students' lives. As we will show in the pages ahead, a number of schools and districts are drawing upon research from neuroscience to provide students with the instructional supports needed to advance academically. Their success, and the research that supports it, provides further evidence that we can do much more to cultivate talent and ability in children.

For many years, educators have understood that environmental influences, including family, peer groups, and neighborhood environmental factors, have an influence upon child development and student learning Rothstein, In more recent times, awareness about how the environment impacts children has been extended to include recognition that even less direct environmental influences such as media, video games, music, and other forms of popular culture also have tremendous influence on the development of children Syme, Psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner theorized that there were five layers to the environmental context that impact an individual's growth and development: Bronfenbrenner's theory focused on the impact that environment played on the growth and development of the individual.

Bronfenbrenner's work is important because it draws attention to the various layers of environment, from the interpersonal to even broader societal trends such as de-industrialization and immigration, and how they impact the individual. While the relationship between the environment and student learning may seem obvious, in recent years, education policy has increasingly ignored the influence of environmental factors on children. Rather than devising or even recommending strategies that might make it possible for schools to respond to and mitigate harmful environment factors, policies at the federal and state level have adopted a context-blind approach and largely failed to acknowledge the ways in which the environment affects schools and children.

As an alternative, we suggest that schools must take time to deliberately understand the environmental factors that influence the children they serve. Plant closures, toxic waste sites, gangs, housing foreclosures, the absence of healthy food, and other conditions can have significant influence on children and learning.

While schools may not be able to counter the harmful effects that arise from such conditions, they are more likely to be able to create strategies to counter and even mitigate these conditions if they understand how they may be influencing their students. For example, some of the schools that will be described in the following chapters developed partnerships with health clinics and afterschool programs to address needs that they could not respond to on their own.

While such strategies do not eliminate environmental obstacles, these examples show that when such strategies are pursued, which we describe as a more integrated and holistic approach, the ability of schools to meet the needs of their students is increased. When these three pillars of the excellence through equity paradigm are used together in a coherent system for responding to and addressing the needs of children, the ability of schools to meet the developmental and academic needs of students increases significantly.

When this occurs, the pursuit of excellence through equity becomes possible and attainable, but of course, never easy. We are under no illusion that the forces responsible for growing inequality can be easily abated through the adoption of a few strategies. That is why we describe the approach we are calling for as a new paradigm because we think it represents a very different way of thinking about how schools can serve the learning needs of students.

Our hope is that readers will be inspired by these examples to think about how the paradigm can be applied in more classrooms, schools, cities, states, and beyond. While all elements of this paradigm are not necessarily reflected in the examples that will be presented in the pages ahead, we think the paradigm itself serves as a useful framework for thinking about how schools can effectively pursue excellence through equity. It is very important that our readers understand that we do not envision the pursuit of excellence through equity as a set of strategies that can be followed in a formulaic manner.

On the contrary, we believe it is important to acknowledge that because children are different with respect to their interests, temperament, and needs, the strategies employed to serve their needs must vary. Equity is not about treating all children the same. However, schools and educators that use the three pillars of this paradigm—child development, neuroscience, and recognition of environmental influences—to guide their action will undoubtedly rely upon strategies that are similar.

For example, some of the schools and districts we feature rely upon performance-based assessment to gauge student learning and personalized learning plans to monitor their progress and ensure that their needs are being met. Many of the educators also recognize that a key feature of equity is providing disadvantaged students with more learning time through high quality after school and summer learning experiences and increased exposure to the world outside the communities where their students reside to expand their horizons.

These and other strategies will be described in detail in the pages ahead.


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  6. Second, the pursuit of excellence through equity invariably involves forging collaborative relationships among adult stakeholders —parents or guardians , teachers, and administrators. When these adults begin working together to support the success of every student, possibilities for breaking predictable patterns of achievement increase. Of course, getting adult stakeholders to work together is challenging and sometimes involves conflict. As we will show, establishing shared goals for every student requires willingness and an ability to deliberate thoughtfully about what is in the best interests of the child.

    There must also be shared responsibility for ensuring that all students are equipped with the skills they will need for the future. Providing teachers with the social skills to have candid conversations with parents across race, class, and language differences, and supporting principals and superintendents so that they can handle the resistance mounted by affluent parents when they protest a decision to detrack a college prep course or expand access to advanced placement classes, is challenging to say the least. Yet, as we will show in the pages ahead, creating a sense of shared accountability for the long-term outcomes of students is a common characteristic of schools and programs that are committed to these values.

    We realize that one of the most complicated issues at the center of this work is defining what success means for every student. When administrators do not pledge to get all students into college or promise that all students will graduate proficient in core subjects like literacy and math, it may seem like a step backward and open those individuals to attacks.

    However, we have already seen that grand promises like those associated with NCLB have not resulted in success for every student. In fact, because NCLB largely ignored the conditions under which children are educated and focused narrowly on test score results, it did relatively little to improve educational outcomes for the most disadvantaged students, the very students its advocates claimed it would help Darling-Hammond, As we will show, calling for schools to set high but realistic goals for every student need not result in a drift back to the time when we assumed children from poor and working-class backgrounds were not college material and should instead be prepared for a trade.

    If we remain vigilant and focused on outcomes, if we examine achievement patterns to make sure that they don't become predictable with respect to the race and class of students, and if we genuinely hold all stakeholders—educators, policy makers, parents, community leaders, and students—responsible for their role in promoting academic success, it should be possible to create schools where a child's background does not predict how well he or she will do academically and that serve all children in significantly better ways than the ones we have now.

    When there is mutual accountability and a shared commitment to the common goal of meeting the needs of all students among all stakeholders, schools can begin to realize the goal of excellence through equity. As our authors show in the pages ahead, some schools are doing this now by aiming for mastery in learning rather than settling for passing or even proficiency in critical subjects.

    U.S. EDUCATORS ARE SWIMMING AGAINST A WAVE OF POOR POLICY

    They are doing it by ensuring that the support systems are in place for teachers so that they are clear about what effective teaching is and so that they can deliver high quality learning experiences to their students. When these principles are reflected in our work, the most important question that educators ask of themselves is this: Have we created learning environments that make it possible to serve the needs of every student? By focusing on the conditions within schools, the climate and the culture of the learning environment, it is easier to shift learning outcomes for students.

    Because they are not preoccupied with blaming students, parents, or the neighborhoods they live in for poor academic outcomes, the schools, programs, and educators we feature are able to ensure that the futures of the students they serve are not determined by demographics. These are the challenges that educators in various parts of the country and throughout the world are actively pursuing when they commit to the goal of excellence through equity.

    Finally, the reader will undoubtedly be struck by the fact that the starting point for working toward the goal of excellence through equity is creating a community where the needs of each student are thoroughly known, and each member understands his or her role. By knowing our children—how they learn, what motivates them, what challenges they face, and so on—we are better able to create an environment in which all students can get what they need to succeed. Beil, Frank Beitz, David. Belkhamza, Zakariya Bell, Reginald L. Caldwell, Cam Campbell, G.

    Chandler, David Chandler, Dawne E. Scott Czinkota, Michael R. Davis, Robert de Kluyver, Cornelis A. Ettenger, Kreg Everett, Heidi L. Foster, Carrie Fox, Gerald T. Gefen, David Geiger, Dale R. Gordy, Heather Gotsch, Susan D. Harrison, Julie Hartley, Janet L. Inkson, Kerr Inmon, William H.


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