Classrooms are festooned with college pennants. Hallway placards proclaim:
“No Excuses!” Students win prizes for attendance. They start classes
earlier and end later than their neighbors; some return to school on
Saturdays. And they get to pore over math problems one-on-one with newly
hired tutors, many of them former accountants and engineers.
If these new mores at Lee High School, long one of Houston’s most
troubled campuses, make it seem like one of those intense charter schools,
that is no accident.
In the first experiment of its kind in the country, the Houston
public schools are testing whether techniques proven successful in
high-performing urban charters can also help raise achievement in regular
public schools. Working with Roland G. Fryer, a researcher at Harvard who
studies the racial achievement gap, Houston officials last year embraced
five key tenets of such charters at nine district secondary schools;
this fall, they are expanding the program to 11 elementary schools. A
similar effort is beginning in Denver.
Charter schools were supposed to be pilot projects, so why not
adopt what works there in public schools?
However, this still seems to be all about test scores.
Maybe some public schools could look farther afield,
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Anyone attending the CUEE meeting expecting a plan for how unification of
the city and county school systems would work left disappointed. Instead
of discussing how the school systems might merge if CUEE’s campaign to
dissolve the Valdosta school charter succeeds during the Nov. 8 election
referendum, the Education Planning Task Force focused on its primary
objective: improving academics for area students.
So they have no plan, and of course they also have no control over academics.
If “unification” passes, that control would lie with
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Here’s how they do it in the best education system in the world:
Shanghai’s education system is distinctive and superior—and not
just globally, but also nationally. Hong Kong, Beijing, and ten Chinese
provinces participated in the 2009 PISA, but their results reflected
education systems that were still the same-old knowledge acquisition
models, whereas Shanghai had progressed to equipping students with
the ability to interpret and extrapolate information from text and
apply it to real world situations—what we would normally refer to
as ‘creativity.’ Twenty-six percent of Shanghai 15 year-olds could
demonstrate advanced problem-solving skills, whereas the OECD average
is 3 percent.
I do mean that literally, the best in the world:
Every three years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD) administers its worldwide
Programme for International Student Assessment
(PISA) to measure how well a nation’s education
system has been preparing its students for the global knowledge
economy. Nations such as South Korea, Finland, and Singapore have
traditionally topped the rankings, but, apparently, even they are no
match for Shanghai, which shoved the others into lower positions in its
very first year of participation in the programme, in 2009.