Making Real Progress on School Reform

There’s been a great conversation happening online today on the National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform. I appreciate how many educators have taken time to share their ideas thoughtfully with the rest of us. (See good lists of today’s posts here and here.) At the U.S. Department of Education, we’ve been listening in. I am convinced that the best ideas come from classrooms and communities across the nation. I am committed to supporting the great work that is happening in states and districts.

Today’s conversation has focused on many issues that I think we can all agree on:

  • We need to raise expectations for America’s students and challenge them with standards that will prepare them for success in colleges and careers.
  • We need to elevate the teaching profession so teachers get the respect they deserve and the tools and time to do their jobs well and continually improve.
  • For education reform to be “real,” we need to focus on what works. We need consensus on the right way to measure students’ progress. And then we all need to hold ourselves accountable—and recognize those educators who are especially effective.
  • We need to involve parents as active partners in their children’s education so they can support the hard work that teachers do in the classroom.

(If you’re curious about how the Obama administration’s Blueprint for Reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) proposes to empower educators, check out our “Built for Teachers” brochure at ED.gov. It was written by teachers, for teachers.)

Throughout my tenure as secretary of education, I’ve met with outstanding teachers who are positively transforming the lives of children every day, often in unbelievably difficult situations. For them, a child’s background—which can include poverty, a language barrier, a disability, a dysfunctional home—presents a challenge but isn’t used as an excuse.

One of the many places where I have seen real education reform at work is George C. Hall Elementary School in Mobile, Ala., which has transformed from being one of the lowest-performing schools in Alabama into a national model for achieving success in challenging circumstances. I visited George C. Hall at the start of the school year on my Courage in the Classroom bus tour.

Also on that tour I saw great examples of students learning about the civil rights movement from members of their community in Portland, Me., and had a candid conversation with teachers about how to improve testing and teacher compensation in Hattiesburg, Miss. I’ve also seen tremendous leadership from union leaders and district leaders in Hillsborough County, Fla., Prince George’s County, Md., and other districts. These leaders are moving beyond the battles of the past and finding new ways to work together.

I am more optimistic than ever about our nation’s education system, because I see the courage and commitment of teachers, parents, and educational leaders to making real reform happen every day. But I believe we are at an important crossroads. We’ve reached consensus on many important issues, but we in education spend too much of our time and energy focused on issues that divide us. We forget how important it is to move forward on what we agree on.

On this National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, I hope we can agree on one thing: Let’s move forward on solutions– and not get sidetracked by debates that will slow what is real progress.

Arne Duncan

24 Comments

  1. I noticed in the December issue of Atlantic, an article, Your Child Left Behind, which discussed the research of Stanford economist Eric Hanushek and two colleagues. It looked at schools in the United States and abroad. The schools researched were top schools to counter the argument that diversity is what has diminished student performance in the U.S.

    In the United States, only one state, Massachusettes, ranked significantly in performance. What did Massachusettes do? Massachusetts made it harder to become a teacher, requiring newcomers to pass a basic literacy test before entering the classroom. In the first year, more than a third of the new teachers failed the test. The state also required students to pass a test before graduating from high school.

    This is not rocket science. Only qualified teachers can teach. Minimum standards for their performance must be required for certification. Likewise for students, a credible high school diploma must be awarded for credible performance.

    Best regards to all,
    Dona

  2. I’d like to talk to Secretary Duncan (since he is talking to master teachers among you). How does one accomplish this contact.
    My expereince in both education in the traditional school setting as teacher, department head, dean and school head. . and, additionally, experience in business has led me to the conveiction that much of what we used in business to create the new American workforces that would be competitive with first the Japanese and now a host of others has enormous relevance for the education of the American student.
    In creatively adapting the behavioral models that have had such an impact on the American workforce in many companies from the factory floor to the executive suite a small group of us have authored a course of studies that has the potential to have a deep and lasting impact on any curriculum.
    There is plenty out there that educators are wholly unaware exists even as they lament the range of problems that plague American schools.
    Lectures, contracts, workshops, exhortations, threats, punishments do not work with young people.
    Serious behavioral models based in solid psychology and philosophy do.
    Fact is: we already know how to be better than we are.
    Circumspice! Look around!

  3. The tradition of educating the young to be broadly educated for life before they are narrowly educated for professions has been turned on its head in the last decade.
    The frequent references to the need of educators to be mindful they are “training the global workforce” is
    contributing to the aborting of education’s real mission and events in the U.S. and the world reflect the departure from the classical ideals of master teachers shaping sensibilities that form good citizens of a good society first and foremost before the funneling off into specialties begins.
    of course the basics literacy and numeracy must be mastered, but the present frenzy that now pervades schools flies in the face of what characterizes the kind of preparation required for full participation in a truly liberal culture.
    Specialization in pragmatic subject matters will come soon enough and the broadly educated person will flourish when they do.
    What is left behind increasingly in schools taking shape today is the best part of the child, the part that once neglected will mean that child will grow considerably deprived of depth and breadth of life forever.

  4. I voted for President Obama, because he spoke several times about how parents/guardians needed to become more involved and responsible for their childrens behavior before, during, and after school to help ensure their success. They are the primary care givers. We, teachers, are secondary care givers.

    If you want to get teachers to buy into Pay for Performance, then lets make sure everyone elses pay who is involved are paid based on that same performance.

    The lawmakers and policy makers that are set up the governance and laws that tell us what to teach. The deparments, secretaries, boards, and others who choose policy based upon constituents preferences rather than tested and proven pedogogy.

    Finally, when mom and dad are financially responsible and the children are held accountable for their own work then you can choose to pay me for performance as well. Otherwise, I view paying teachers for performance as nothing but a scape goat for the masses.

    When students are no longer promoted for social reasons, when pre-requisite learning is up-held and students who cannot do basic operations (3-4 grade level work) are not placed in a high school algebra class with the expectation of performing operations on rational functions as well as other processes requiring previous success in basic skills, and when students behaviors in class can have immediate and appropriate consequences, then we can see what I am responsible for doing.

    Parents are allowed to deduct their child from income taxes as a dependent. They can count them on EIC. They can receive public benefits for them such as food stamps, WIC, etc. When parents and guardians who use their children as a source of income lose that as a result of their childs performance then I would bet everyone will be interested. I would suggest that we give out a grade card to students every Jan. 31, that states whether they are in good standing and successful in school and can be counted, deducted, and supported because they are being dependents, or NOT in which case they are not being dependents and should not be allowed to be counted, deducted, or supported and they should be referred to child services for investigation.

    What responsibility does everyone else in this situation have besides teachers. When all the politicians and bureaucrats stop trying to balance their budgets and on the back of public servants like school teachers then we can talk.

    One last thing I would like for someone to clear up. Who else gets paid for their performance? If I don’t like a movie I don’t get my money back. If I don’t like a steak, that doesn’t mean I can walk out without paying. If a doctor does help me cure an ailment or fix a problem then I shouldn’t have to pay him. If a President, Congress, or Federal Judge does something that their constituents doesn’t find in the best interest they do not loose pay. Please tell me why the people in the teaching profession are the only ones being expected to do this.

    Finally, Charter schools are schools that operate outside the rule of the people elected regulate them. Why is public money being used in situations to avoid public regulation? Why not allow all public schools to be run by a local parent-teacher organization and quit paying all of our overseers who do nothing to help students. From my point of view, I wonder why anyone not directly involved with the children are being paid anything? The situation we find ourselves in public education is a result of policy makers policies and not the people who work in the schools. Why do we need the view point of successful people in other fields (ie Bill Gates) except for the fact they are wealthy, otherwise no one would listen to them.

    I will close with a reversal of a statement many of my college engineering friends used to say,

    “Those who can do, those who can’t teach”

    I think we would do well to recognize that just because you know how to do something does not mean you can teach it. So, I say,

    “Those who can teach, those who can’t do.”

    Thank you for the opportunity to express the views of myself and many colleagues.

  5. There is so much involved in the process of teaching and learning. First there has to be a school which has a safe, clean environment for children to learn in. We need repairs and replacement in many of our schools. We need a highly qualified teacher, parents/grandparents/guardians who have a close communication. We need administrators who will decrease distractions and allow teachers to teach. Above all, we need the support of the community to help us support the workings of the school.
    If any of these elements ar out of place, these all have a direct affect on learning and instruction.
    Please take note of many of ou inner city schools. They are failing in all of these areas.
    Value added assessment must somehow include all of these elements before it can really distinguish if the student is making progress or not. It is about a highly qualified teacher. But where are the assessments for caregivers, administration, community, and school building that are decrepit and falling apart?

  6. I’m writing this letter on a furlough day to you because I’ve got the (unpaid) time to dwell upon matters forgotten by many others. I have not.

    On May 24, 2010, the Steering Committee for Teachers Letters to Obama spoke with you, Secretary Duncan. Here’s what I wrote Thursday, May 27, 2010 in Day 35: “Raise A Voice” (found at http://savingfremont.weebly.com):

    “After the disastrous phone call Monday, Secretary Duncan called Anthony Cody in Oakland and Marsha Ratzel in Kansas, who helped convene Monday’s meeting, two of our “Dirty Dozen” or “Twelve Teachers”, to actually ask what they thought. Of concern to teachers at the Mont was the topic of restructuring and the unfairness of the process, the means of determining which school would go to the left or the right. Amazing that it also seems to revolve around test scores and SIGs. Which leads to the emphasis on boosting the scores, which turns us into test-prep academies (wait, aren’t you at the Mont becoming academies next year?) as we chase the elusive AYP.

    “But there are other valid concerns out there, topics which were suggested by the polling on the Facebook “Teachers Letters to Obama” group, of which I am a proud member. There are concerns about assessment, about safe and successful schools, about diverse learners, college and career readiness.

    “But the good news, aside from the calls, was that Secretary Duncan found what was said to be of value, and that he would be willing to pursue other conversations.”

    The other conversations never happened.

    Secretary Duncan, it has been about 185 days. Are you planning to get back with us on the matters mentioned in that conversation on May 24, 2010. After all, it was you who called Anthony Cody in Oakland and Marsha Ratzel in Kansas, who helped convene that Monday’s meeting, and which included Mary Tedrow, Sandee Palmquist, Elena Aguilar, Rian Fike, Bob Williams, Nancy Flanagan and me, which lasted 30 minutes (was supposed to be an hour) and was terminated abruptly. Why have you not returned the calls? Did you lose the phone numbers of Mr. Cody (http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/) and Ms. Ratzel (http://teachingtechie.typepad.com/)?

    Or was “Waiting For Superman” all the information you needed to justify the continued privatization of public education?

  7. Secretary Duncan,

    Your dedication towards taking public dollars and giving them to business is unethicalBecause of your policies I am hoping to see Barack Obama get fired. I also hope to see you fired.

    If it weren’t for you I would have been a supporter of Obama.

  8. “On this National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, I hope we can agree on one thing: Let’s move forward on solutions– and not get sidetracked by debates that will slow what is real progress.”

    With all due respect Secretary Duncan, you just don’t seem to understand that debate is healthy in a democracy. The history of education demonstrates time and time again that top down reform fail every time. I see no real difference from your policies to President Bush’s policies. Billions of dollars wasted on reforms that show little or no effect, and now we hear our 12 grade students after nearly a decade of these Washington top down reforms find themselves scoring lower than 12 graders in 1992 in reading. Does data mean anything to Washington DC?

    My name is Jesse Turner I walked 400 miles in 40 days this past summer to protest NCLB/RTTT. I’ll be walking again this summer. We’ll be in DC from July 28-31 for a week of action at the Step up for Education at the American University. Maybe you would like to come to one of our events to tell share your views on top down educational reforms?
    Thank you for the opportunity to blog with you,
    Jesse Turner
    Creator of Children Are More Than Test Scores.

  9. In all the talk about common core standards and testing, we may forget that we are not pouring knowledge into passive students. They are human beings with thoughts, curiosity and ambitions of their own. Part of the art of teaching is imparting the ability to think for themselves. The current unprecedented emphasis on testing narrows the curriculum. A broad curriculum teaches multiple intelligences, and prepares individuals for productive lives. Testing tends to force students into a one-size fits all mentality. The lack of public discourse about social and emotional curriculum concerns me. Our students deserve respect for their unique ways of thinking. As teachers, we build relationships and build upon strengths. I firmly uphold states rights and community rights to local control of the schools. We are testing too much, and far too early. Elementary students should not bear the responsibility for their principal’s job, or their teacher’s wages. It creates a system that is ripe for corruption and cheating. I can hardly believe that the Department of Education is staying the course on the very unpopular No Child Left Behind. We must treat our students as individuals, and teach creative and critical thinking. The current test and punish system is the wrong course for our great democracy.
    Suzanne, NBCT

  10. I’m sorry, Mr. Duncan. We’re approaching the two-year mark on this administration, and the actions have never matched the words. In fact, the words don’t always match up either – spinning your view of teachers and teaching one way for teacher audiences, and another way for “ed-reform” and business audiences.

    Give us some evidence. When in your tenure has the DOE used teacher feedback or educational research to revise a contested plan or proposal?

  11. I’d like to invite you to our weekly #edchat on Twitter discussion. This week we are discussing “How is social media affecting professional development for educators?”

    We run weekly moderated professional development sessions at 12pm EST and 7pm EST and we’d be happy to have you join. It can be fast though so I’d recommend having a good Twitter client (like Tweetdeck) installed to view the chat.

    Hopefully we can continue discussion and understand your perspective on educational reform, and get the chance to share our perspective.

    Thank you,

    David Wees

  12. “We need to involve parents as active partners in their children’s education so they can support the hard work that teachers do in the classroom.”
    Research has shown over and over again that this is what makes the difference–parent involvement. It doesn’t have to be a physical presence in the classroom; it could be just making sure homework gets done. Teachers can build this connection by contacting home NOT when there are problems with the child, but when there is something POSITIVE to say. Even as a teacher of seriously emotionally disturbed students, I never met a child about whom something positive could not be found–even if it was to say he/she actually smiled today. There are easy ways to communicate weekly–a printed checklist with room for comments that goes home once a week, for example. To keep tasks manageable for the teacher, sending 8 messages home a day should be easy enough to handle. And children will be much more likely to turn a good note over to a parent than one that talks about just one more thing the child did wrong. Also, when students see positive comments going home, they are more likely to seek out more positive attention.

  13. To follow up on Nancy’s comment above about high-stakes.

    I believe the Secretary has silently endorsed the idea that high-stakes now apply to parents. Charter schools, after all, have found that “counseling-out” difficult-to-teach students is a highly effective method to prop-up their data. The counseled-out students return to the traditional public schools.

    For example, Chicago’s celebrated Urban Prep has managed to find college placements for its entire 2010 graduating classl; however, its graduation rate is far lower than the Chicago Public Schools in general. Those are high stakes, for everyone except the charter school and its teachers.

    The question is this: is the Secretary ready to extend the same tolerance and enthusiasm for high attrition/low graduation rates to the traditional public schools? Because I believe the public is actually ready for it. The people who are enthusiastic about this kind of approach the will likely cheer on policies that allow traditional public schools to close their doors to challenging students; it’s a very appealing conservative impulse, and the President will be much-praised for it– by people who will never vote for him.

    I believe the Secretary needs to make a clear public statement about this issue. Do high stakes apply to everyone, or don’t they? Are public schools charged with educating everyone? Or just everyone they decide to keep?

    And to follow-up on Anthony’s comment: I agree that it is a mistake to uncap the limit on charter schools, given the research on the test scores that these schools produce. What makes it worse than a mistake, what makes it irresponsible, is the dearth of research on communities impacted by school closings, and on schools impacted by the self-segregation-by-motivation that is clearly going on in our nation.

  14. There exist many tried and true methods of improving student learning that we seem determined to overlook or ignore, because they have been around so long. We can and should refocus on using best practices that have been reviewed and acknowledged.

    One such method is a concept called Mastery Learning. It’s been around since 1922; it can be applied to any curriculum content; it involves three simultaneous strands of planning for each unit/lesson; it requires successful completion of formative assessment before being allowed to take summative assessments; it denies course credit to any student who fails to reach mastery level on an component unit of a course; and, if used properly administered, can raise proficiency to 80% for 80% or more of the class. Look at the work of Dr. Timonthy Guskey at the University of Kentucky.

  15. It is critical to remember that parents and their involvement/investment in their child’s education is the most important determinant of the student’s academic success. This has been proven in study after study.

    High stakes seem to apply only for teachers, schools, and high school students. Shouldn’t we be talking about high stakes for parents, also? How do we hold parents accountable for making sure that their students do homework, seek extra help, put in effective effort, etc.?

  16. I’d love to have a 2-day conference where you invited (and paid for) some of these teachers to come to D.C. and discuss some of these ideas. If we could collaborate, think critically, and use technology effectively during the conference we would not only be using those 21st century skills we should be teaching our students to use, but we would also me able to come up with something like a “Contract For Educators” that could be passed on to Congress and to state legislatures.

  17. Secretary Duncan,
    You may recall we spoke on the phone last May when I was part of a group called Teachers’ Letters to Obama that organized ourselves to share our concerns and ideas with your administration. Unfortunately we never heard back from you (as I describe here: http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2010/11/teachers_and_education_policy.html)

    My question to you is that you frequently tell teachers of your conviction that we need to move away from “teaching to the test.” Yet you are aggressively encouraging states and districts to:
    Pay teachers based on the growth in those test scores
    Evaluate teachers based on those test scores
    Close schools or fire principals or teachers based on those test scores
    Evaluate the “effectiveness” of teaching credential programs based on test scores.

    You often say that we must recognize teachers for their greatness. Unfortunately, the primary means you have been promoting to measure greatness is the same one that doomed No Child Left Behind.

    In your blog post yesterday, you wrote:
    For education reform to be “real,” we need to focus on what works. We need consensus on the right way to measure students’ progress. And then we all need to hold ourselves accountable—and recognize those educators who are especially effective.

    When you say we must focus “on what works,”
    Do you recognize the research that demonstrates that pay for performance does NOT work, even to raise test scores? Has this powerful evidence caused any reevaluation of this strategy within the Department?

    Do you recognize that asking states to remove any limits on the expansion of charter schools is a mistake, given that charter schools have been shown to be no more effective than regular public schools?

    While there may not yet be a consensus on the best way to measure student progress, there IS a clear consensus on what does NOT work – which you yourself frequently join in. That consensus says that the tests currently in use are, to use your own words, “low quality bubble-in tests.” There IS a broad consensus among educators that says the over-reliance on these scores for accountability purposes is destroying our schools. When will you bring your policies in line with your rhetoric?

    You have been in office now for almost two years. It is not just my perception that teachers are more alienated than ever from the Department of Education. Do you hold yourself accountable for any part of this broken dialogue?

  18. While I am grateful that Secretary Duncan and his officers engaged with #blog4reform yesterday, I’d like to take a moment to challenge his characterization of what it was really all about.

    On the ED.gov blog, Secretary Duncan said:

    “Today’s conversation has focused on many issues that I think we can all agree on:

    - We need to raise expectations for America’s students and challenge them with standards that will prepare them for success in colleges and careers.

    - We need to elevate the teaching profession so teachers get the respect they deserve and the tools and time to do their jobs well and continually improve. For education reform to be “real,” we need to focus on what works. We need consensus on the right way to measure students’ progress. And then we all need to hold ourselves accountable—and recognize those educators who are especially effective.

    - We need to involve parents as active partners in their children’s education so they can support the hard work that teachers do in the classroom.”

    Here’s what I heard yesterday:

    - We need to expect ourselves to teach right by America’s students and challenge them with opportunities to feel, make, and perform authentic, humane work that will help them uphold our responsibilities to one another as American and global citizens.

    - We need to elevate the purpose of public education so students get the opportunities they deserve and the tools and time to help themselves and their communities continuously improve.
    For education reform to be “real” we need to acknowledge that many kinds of education work for many kinds of students, and that a national program driven by standardized testing and materials from third party vendors is the worst-fit for most students. We need consensus that there are several right ways to teach, learn, and demonstrate both. And then we all need to hold ourselves accountable for letting go of limiting and harmful past practices.

    - We need to open schools to parents so they can support their children and themselves where our shared work takes place, so teachers AND parents AND students can support one another’s hard work and learning.

    I didn’t hear anything about doing things one way yesterday, and that was the whole point. We teachers, students, and parents have ideas, not a single idea. What works is bigger than any single program, and, frankly, what works for a closed system kind of program doesn’t change America or its democracy for the better. It borders on the fraudulent to claim that we’re developing any kind of robust or effective school choice movement in America when schools are united by mandate to serve the single measure of standardized testing and the kind of low-level teaching and learning it engenders in those of us who, by necessity, play it safe.

    When the best a teacher can do is compromise his or her students’ learning and inquiry for test prep, that is not okay.

    So, let’s have standards in literacy and numeracy and core competencies aligned to professional habits of mind – which are generally curious, determined, and iterative. Let’s standardize opportunities for early-childhood pre-school and reading. Let’s think about what we can do with school buildings instead of tearing them down. But let’s not go on pretending that raising test scores is a true or worthy measure of our culture’s achievements and dedication to its members. The tests change; the scales shift; still we cling to them. I say, “No more.” Our schools should stand on a foundation of equity and dedication to discovery, not on the pixie dust of vendors’ promises and the rust of last century’s factories.

    While it may seem frightening to take risks with our children’s education by allowing true innovation in public schools, we need to take that risk and re-open debate about why and how best to school all children. We need to allow for differences of opinion and the implementation of diverse, juried proposals reviewed by expert practitioners.

    I assure you, it’s a larger risk to our fraying democracy to continue schooling for compliance and industry.

    Secretary Duncan, thank you for listening. Now it’s time to hear what we’re saying.

    Let’s collaborate on a system worthy of our progress as a people, rather than on schools and measures that continue to exacerbate our worst tendencies in labeling one another. I know you have answers I need, and I know others have answers for us both.

    Sincerely,
    Chad Sansing, NBCT

  19. Does this friendly and appreciated homage mean that there is a chance we can change the course of the flow a bit?

    Or will it be back to business as usual in Washington?

    Devoted educators are dying to know. :)

  20. We need to remember the purpose of education is to teach our citizens to think and be able to vote in a democracy!!Teaching our children to think for themselves instead of to take a test doesn’t exist any more!!
    It is hard to measure but we can’t give up on the young people in this country. In this digital age it is terrible to be afraid to teach children how to explore and develop their own ideas. As a middle school teacher I struggle trying to find the balance between what is tested and what I believe. We can’t measure and compare the ability of our students to research, compare several ideas and develop their own opinion or maybe even a new idea.

  21. Thank you for participating in the National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform. It’s an important step in stopping the blame game and focusing on a common goal of improving teaching and learning in the classroom. Today’s event allowed teachers, principals, central office staff, superintendents, college professors, professional associations, and even a handful of students to express their ideas that will help to inform debate and improve our public education system.

  22. 9 Questions for Reflective School Reform Leaders

    In response to the November 22: Day of National Blogging for Real Education Reform, I have posed nine questions for school leaders to consider. They’re organized around three themes and a concluding recommendation. Readers might also want to review my post “A Taxonomy of Reflection: Critical Thinking For Students, Teachers, and Principals”
    Theme 1. Learning must engage student in rigorous thinking at higher levels of Bloom – analyzing, evaluating and creating. School leaders should ask:
    1. Does our school community recognize the difference between higher and lower order thinking?
    2. Are students expected to just consume information, or are they asked to create something original that demonstrates their learning?
    3. Is our school a creative problem-solving organization?
Answers: We cut music and art for remedial math. (Wrong!!!)
We recognize music and art are vehicles to teach math. (That’s better!)

    Theme 2. Learning is relevant when the student understands how the information or skill has some application to their life, has an opportunity to figure out their own process rather than just learn “the facts,” and is given opportunities to reflect on their work and their progress as learners. School leaders should ask …
    4. Do our students get high grades for simply memorizing the review sheet for the test?
    5. Do our students “follow the recipe” or are they increasingly asked to take responsibility for their learning products, process and results?
    6. Is the audience for student work simply the teacher, or are students asked to share their learning with peers, family, community?

    Theme 3. The digital age has redefined literacy. To paraphrase David Warlick, Literacy now means the ability to: find information, decode it, critically evaluate it, organize it into digital libraries, be able to share it with others and stay focused on a task. School leaders should ask …
    7. If we’re no longer the “information gatekeepers,” are we teaching our students to critically evaluate information and use it responsibly?
    8. Does our technology get used mainly by the educators, or are students regularly employing it to create understanding and share their learning?
    9. Is our credit system based on seat time or can it be expanded beyond the school walls to any place / time virtual learning?

    I find it ironic that while schools chase NCLB “proficiency,” life has become an open book test. We need to unleash the power of assessment that targets and inspires. One-shot, high stakes tests are just autopsies. Students need regular check-ups where teachers can gauge student progress and target instruction. Ultimately the program must be designed to foster student self-assessment that gives them responsibility for monitoring their own progress.

    Students should be supported in on-going self-reflection that addresses questions such as:
    How can I use this knowledge and these skills to make a difference in my life?
    How am I progressing as a learner?
    How can I communicate what I’m learning with others?
    How can I work with teachers and other students to improve my learning?
    Schools will need to become places that create engaging and relevant learning experiences, provoke student reflection, and help students apply the learning to life. Authentic accountability is reciprocal … leadership is responsible to provide resources for success, educators are responsible for results. Simply sorting students along the “bell curve” won’t do.

  23. Secretary Duncan,

    Allow me to offer visitors to ED.gov links to the blogs
    On SpeEdChange
    http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2010/11/blogging-for-real-reform-real-ideas-not.html
    And on Cooperative Catalyst
    http://coopcatalyst.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/ideas/

    So many educators – principals, superintendents, teachers, parents, professors, technologists, and yes, students took up the call we made back in October…
    http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2010/10/blogging-for-real-education-reform.html
    And we are thrilled to have enabled this wide-ranging, fully open, conversation.

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