VIA NYTimes: Educational Reform without “Pizazz”

In a New York Times op-ed, David L. Kirp tells us something crucial about the successful, if unglamorous, reforms that have taken place in the Union City, NJ school system:

From pre-K to high school, the make-or-break factor is what the Harvard education professor Richard Elmore calls the “instructional core” — the skills of the teacher, the engagement of the students and the rigor of the curriculum. To succeed, students must become thinkers, not just test-takers.

It seems to me that institututional success, when it happens, seems to occur in the convergence of these factors: better teachers, more engaged students, higher expectations embedded within a (well-designed) curriculum. Here’s his take-away:

What makes Union City remarkable is, paradoxically, the absence of pizazz. It hasn’t followed the herd by closing “underperforming” schools or giving the boot to hordes of teachers. No Teach for America recruits toil in its classrooms, and there are no charter schools.

So what are we doing to strengthen our “instructional core,” in Elmore’s sense of the word? [And for more about Elmore’s approach, try this interview]

DM

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