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February 1, 2005
Vol. 62
No. 5

Web Wonders / How Schools Improve

Web Wonders / How Schools Improve
How do we judge schools and student success? What is the purpose of education, anyway? As author David J. Ferrero (p. 8) wryly states, “Few of us went into education out of a burning desire to raise students' test scores.” The following Web resources can help address these questions.

Vision and Planning

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (www.gatesfoundation.org) is involved in extensive efforts related to education and child welfare, from creating small high schools to supporting families to fighting AIDS. For example, a recent program aims to create high schools that incorporate college-level studies, giving students a jump start into higher education. On the site's Model Schools page (www.gatesfoundation.org/Education/TransformingHighSchools/ModelSchools) you'll find descriptions of 23 innovative high school models, along with resources for further information.
Another organization engaged in widespread support of school reform is the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University (www.annenberginstitute.org), whose mission is to “develop, share, and act on knowledge that improves the conditions and outcomes of schooling in America, especially in urban communities and in schools serving disadvantaged children.” This site offers full-text access to many articles from the organization's periodical, titled VUE (Voices in Urban Education).

Funding Equity and School Improvement

As author Stan Karp (p. 28) reports, New Jersey is one of many states struggling with the issue of how to support schools equitably. The Education Law Center (www.edlawcenter.org) advocates on behalf of New Jersey's public school students for access to an equal and adequate education under state and federal laws. The Center's Web site contains detailed information about the latest legal equity developments in New Jersey and other states.

What Works

In developing the What Works in Schools model, researcher Robert J. Marzano consulted 35 years of education research to identify 11 school, teacher, and student factors that are primary determinants of student achievement. Go towww.ascd.org and pull down “What Works in Schools” from the Programs link to find books, audio- and videotapes, conferences, and online professional development courses related to this model. You can also get information about the What Works in Schools Online Survey (www.whatworksinschools.org), which enables teachers and administrators to create a profile of how their school or district addresses the factors that influence student achievement and then target areas in need of improvement.

Focus on Students

Listening, watching, observing, collaborating, monitoring—according to authors in this issue, all of these are ways for teachers to learn about students and thus achieve genuine school improvement. For example, computerized adaptive testing (CAT), described by Allan Olson (p. 37), enables schools to track individual students' growth and design appropriate instruction. More information about CAT is available at the Northwest Evaluation Association Web site (www.nwea.org). Or visit www.edres.org/scripts/cat for an interactive tutorial demonstrating the statistics and logic behind computerized adaptive testing, developed by Lawrence M. Rudner.
Georgea M. Langer and Amy B. Colton (p. 22) discuss the power of engaging teachers in collaborative inquiry centered on individual students' work. To learn more about this process, check out the Looking at School Work Collaborative (www.lasw.org). Emphasizing that there are many different approaches to collaborative inquiry, the site includes descriptions of a number of different protocols (guidelines for conversations about student work) that teachers and schools can use.


At www.washoe.k12.nv.us/schools/pdfs/s4anderson.pdf, you can get a detailed description of Anderson Elementary, the school described by author Pete Hall (p. 70), which journeyed from severely slipping scores to high student achievement. Improving literacy, increasing collaboration, and learning by doing were among the practices leading to success for this Nevada school.
And for more inspiration, visit Schools Moving Up, a WestEd initiative (www.schoolsmovingup.net). This site's “Schools on the Move” section “profiles schools across the country finding ways to make the changes needed to improve student achievement,” including detailed data and principal interviews to give you insights into each school's improvement process.

Carolyn R. Pool has been a contributor to Educational Leadership.

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