The Classroom

 HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS FOR ALL NON-SPECIAL EDUCATION STUDENTS  One can not assess the future job prospects of Wisconsin children if there is no benchmarking of global education performance. Wisconsin, unlike only North Carolina and Massachusetts in 2017, do not take the PISA international test.** Thus, the comparisons made are usually within Wisconsin’s socioeconomic and racial strata, with only occasional ‘proficiency’   references even to other states.. Certainly gaps in these areas exist, far more so in Wisconsin than say Texas and many other states. ( See ‘Resources’ page.) But recent OECD comparisons of the three main socioeconomic groups in 30 First World Countries have clearly shown that not only do America’s (& arguably Wisconsin’s) poorest students place last among their poor counterparts in math, and reading; but our “brightest and best” also place last vs. the best students in the other countries. So, “Stretch Targets” are for all of our children; though some will find it easier to globally catch up than others.

** = PISA tests are taken by two WI school districts, Kettle Moraine & Pewaukee.

STRONG INDIVIDUAL SCHOOL LEADERSHIP Should not our local public school boards as well as choice school boards be elected largely from a pool of principals and other seasoned educational professionals recommended by a non-partisan State board with veto power? To be fair to our kids, these leaders must establish goals and very high expectations for both the children and their teachers and then measure progress over the long haul. The key is to keep up with their international peers, not just make incremental improvements.  Teams, not only individual teachers, are crucial within a consistent school culture that indeed believes and insists that our Wisconsin kids can be as well trained as any in the world. Yes, it takes a team…or several teams through the grades and years to reach “success”.

RECRUITMENT AND PLACEMENT OF MOTIVATED TEACHERS The main task of these highly qualified school board members who are intensely committed to student “success’ is to recruit, place, and help coach highly motivated and certified principals AND teachers in their classroom performance.

FOCUS ON THE CLASSROOM Teachers that support and reinforce each other with regular stimulation, collegial teacher meetings/peer reviews that share insights and best practices from around the state, nation and world are critical. Teachers in Japan employ a practice like this called jugyokenkyu whereby teachers listen to colleagues practicing classroom presentations to hone their craft. School bureaucracies that can be both simplified and minimized, but made more directly supportive of urgent classroom “success”, are so very important. Hey, the name of the game is THE KIDS and their future citizenship and livelihood!  How do we all “stretch” and  get “ much better” (kaizen) as we focus our thoughts and conversations on the classroom and the very high targets for our students?

INNOVATION Radical and fruitful change does not happen without ample experimentation. Whether it is “successful” charter schools or a major reorientation of teacher union priorities to the classroom, BIG CHANGES come from dire need AND from the examples of other “successful” efforts in the United States and abroad. This innovation is generated from both experienced practitioners “within” the system  and from outside groups like the Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges, successful startup schools such as the Uncommon Schools, non profit support groups like PAVE-SchoolsThatCanMilwaukee, or teacher union think tanks. Why, for example are TN, IN, and HI moving so much faster than the rest of country? (Arne Duncan 12/15/14  Forbes).) Why has only Massachusetts  soared in achievement levels above all other states and has now achieved global levels? (See Commitment & Common Sense: Leading Education Reform in Massachusetts by D.D. Driscoll.) We have much to learn…and implement!

REPLICATION Experimental programs in a given school or  district or around the state that result in radical improvement should be copied with local refinements and adaptations wherever possible!