Marc Tucker of the Top Performers blog for Education Week has a new piece discussing the important research of Australian Geoff Masters. Masters argues that an important way to study the success of education reforms is to take into account which countries have had sustained educational success, with the thought that culture plays a key part in ongoing achievement. Not all countries should just do what those countries do, because changing culture takes a long time. Rather, Masters wants to look at those countries that have made educational reforms that have brought improvement in a shorter amount of time, which would suggest that those changes are not a part of deeply ingrained educational culture and are more easily attainable.
Following is an excerpt:
Geoff Masters, the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Council for Educational Research, is one of the treasures of Australia. Not just my opinion. He holds the Medal of the Order of Australia, the highest honor the Australian government can bestow on its citizens. He’s written a paper you need to read, with the innocuous title “Is School Reform Working?”
In it, Masters makes the point that countries that have long been top performers may have that status for reasons-mostly cultural-not directly related to their education policies and practices. So, to determine which policies and practices work best, he looks first at countries that have been doing well and improving rapidly, on the assumption that cultures do not change very quickly, so it is more likely that education policies and practices are responsible for the high performance. Then he looked for systematic differences in policies and practices between these improving countries with others in which student performance has been relatively poor and either holding steady or declining.
Masters observes some common themes among the countries in which average student performance and equity were improving: “[R]eform efforts tend to have been focused first on building the capacity of school leaders and classroom teachers to deliver high quality teaching and learning, and on ensuring that excellent teaching and leadership are distributed throughout the school system.” He also notes that top performers have emphasized the training of teachers to “undertake systematic research into their own teaching,” another mark of an effort to professionalize the occupation of teaching. He observes that “[a]nother feature of high-performing systems is that they have put in place system-wide processes to identify students who are falling behind and to intervene quickly to put students back on track…These countries set high expectations for every student’s learning…[and] appreciate the importance of effective system and school leadership.” He makes a particular point of the importance of making sure “that performance improves across the entire education system.” And they do this, he says, in part by making sure that resources are equitably distributed across all schools.
Read the report here: http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=policyinsights
Read the full blog here: