My reading this week was Viven Stewarts’s book, A World-Class Education: Learning from International Models of Excellence and Innovation
. I found it interesting and would recommend it to you. Stewart examines various international education programs that are top of class currently or have made tremendous improvement in the past 30 years. She identifies why they were successful and how the approach is connected to the nation’s culture and what the US might learn from that success.
She quotes Pasi Sahlberg, a former math teacher and later World Bank official who was involved in Finland’s education reform, when he compares a “corporate approach” that many reforms take to the “professional model” of Finland. (page 61)
Corporate-focus only on core subjects, competition among providers, test-based accountability, and top down direction
Professional-breadth of curriculum, collaboration among schools, attention to individual interest, creativity, trust-based accountability, and local school autonomy
What looks familiar to you?
In Chapter 3, Stewart lists common elements that exist across the international examples. While they are laid out for national or state level design, maybe even district, it struck me that they would be worth exploring at a building leadership level. I am guessing that many of my readers will be taking part in an end of year, summer, or start of year leadership meeting where these points might make for valuable conversations:
Vision and Leadership– What is the dream of the school leaders? Does the staff know the dream? What should a high school grad of 2025 know and be able to do? (That grad is in your kindergarten.)
Ambitious Standards- High-performing countries have ambitious standards across the curriculum that are understood by students, parents, and teachers. Can your team define what students exiting your school will have mastered? Can you work backwards and identify each grade and course’s expectations. Can kids and parents tell when the standards are met?
Commitment to Equity– Are the vision and standards for ALL? How committed is the team/staff to doing what it takes, developing multiple strategies and pathways so ALL achieve?
High Quality Teachers and Leaders—Is your leadership clear on the current skill level of staff? What goals are being set for continued teacher/leader development? Are teachers engaged in planning their own development with goals and strategies?
Alignment and Coherence– What are your implementation gaps? Where is your program or plan not being carried out? Where are you not “walking the talk”?
Management and Accountability– What will be the roles of your leaders that provide the feedback all stakeholders need? I commonly meet leaders who feel PLCs are not being effective and when I ask, ”What the agendas and minutes show?”, I find they don’t exist or aren’t read by leaders. I meet principals who never ask teachers, “How are you using the instructional coach?”. What are the accountability questions your leadership team should be asking?
Student Motivation– High performing countries employ both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives for students and expect more time on task than most American schools. Stewart states that it is the school’s job to engage and support students even when they may not initially be motivated to succeed. How does your school improvement plan look to increase student effort?
Global and Future Orientation– How does your school improvement plan build connections for students with the future and global competence…
-Knowledge of world regions and cultures
-Skills to frame and investigate global problems
-Skills to communicate in a variety of cultural contexts
-Attitudes or dispositions to engage with others and see themselves as thoughtful actors in the world
How much of a professional model can your leadership create?
—— breadth of curriculum, collaboration among schools, attention to individual interest, creativity, trust-based accountability, and local school autonomy