In today's New York Times, there's a pretty fascinating series of articles examining what has worked in education.
The lead piece examines Massachusetts' rise in math and science proficiency. If the state were a country, it would be second only to Singapore according to one well-respected international survey.
Tennessee, and Nashville in particular, are grappling with education reform in all of its dimensions, from standards to school models to teacher evaluations, so this series should be of particular interest.
From the piece:
Two decades after Massachusetts passed its education reform, there is still much disagreement over what were the crucial components to its success.
Some think it was the added money; others note that successful countries operate schools at much lower costs.
Some think high-stakes testing imposed accountability on administrators, teachers and students; others say that it merely added stress and that the proliferation of tests takes away too much time from learning.
Some think the standards gave clarity on what was expected of teachers and students; others say there is little correlation between well-written standards and student performance.
Officials like Dr. Driscoll say all three components were essential.
Dr. Rees, the Braintree schools’ science director, said the standards helped make sure that teachers across the state covered the same subjects, laying the groundwork for subsequent grades.
“There’s a logic to that, a progression,” she said. “You start learning about solids in kindergarten. In first grade, you learn about solids and liquids, and then in second grade, you start to learn about solids and liquids and gases.”
The MCAS has helped Braintree figure out what works and what doesn’t. Middle school students were struggling with chemistry questions on the eighth-grade MCAS. The district changed the order of instruction, covering concrete science concepts in sixth grade and moving some chemistry topics to seventh. “And it worked,” Dr. Rees said. “They’re doing better on their chemistry.”
It's worth noting that even in successful environments, there can be disagreement on the importance of various elements of education reform, but they likely all play a part in raising student achievement.