We were pleased to learn yesterday that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has appointed Jeffrey Riley to head up the turnaround efforts at one of the state’s most underperforming districts, the Lawrence Public Schools. 

This past week, I had the opportunity to visit the Edward Brooke Charter School in Boston. My reason for going to visit was to better understand how this high-performing school designs their educational program and their professional development protocols to generate strong results. And by strong results, I mean really strong results. 

This is a guest post by Jennifer Davis, NCTL's  Co-Founder & President. It is cross-posted on CNN's new education blog Schools of Thought.

Common sense tells us that when it comes to learning, time matters. An individual simply cannot become more proficient in any given area without committing a certain amount of time to grasping new content, practicing and honing skills, and then applying such knowledge and skills to realizing specific outcomes.

This is a guest post by Jennifer Davis, NCTL's  Co-Founder & President

The recent research brief from the National School Boards Association, an analysis of the quantity of instructional time in various countries, concludes by noting that what really matters with instructional time is “how effectively that time is used.” Here at NCTL, we agree with that point, and also agree that “providing extra time is only useful if that time is used wisely.” 

Following up on yesterday’s post about the editorial in the Washington Post explaining that if the District’s schools are to succeed they should follow the lead of high-performing charter schools, I wanted to draw attention to an editorial in the Boston Globe that, in significant ways, picks up where the Post editorial left off. 


Last week, I attended (virtually) the release of results of 21 urban districts that participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, commonly referred to as “the nation’s report card”). The Trial Urban District Assessment or TUDA, tests a representative sample of students in 4th and 8th grade to determine how schools in some of the nation’s largest districts are faring.  Overall, the findings were framed with a kind of cautious optimism because there were many positive signs—a rise in scores in both subjects at both grade levels for most districts—amidst the basic reality that most districts still trail national averages and exhibit yawning achievement gaps between students of different racial backgrounds. 

Much of what we hear in the press these days about our public education system focuses on what is wrong. We seem barraged almost daily with stories of dysfunctional schools, unions warring with administration, the high drop-out rate, misspent resources, and on and on. So it comes as a breath of fresh air when the press takes a break from reporting on the negative to highlight schools that are getting things right.

When I was conducting research on the Volusia County (Florida) Plus One program for our study of three districts, I asked the then-Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Chris Colwell, why Volusia was the only district in Florida that had implemented a program to expand learning time for Title I schools. After all, the way that teachers and principals raved about having the additional hour each day, and the way that the program had enabled the nine schools to make real progress, you would think that other Florida districts would catch on.  His response was that they expended all their energy into making the schools better, rather than promoting the program.

Yesterday in Washington, DC, NCTL released its latest study at an event held at Change the Equation, a one-year-old organization dedicated to “creat[ing] widespread literacy in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as an investment in our nation that empowers us all”.  We could think of no better place to promote the findings from our study, Strengthening Science Education: The Power of More Time to Deepen Inquiry and Engagement, for Change the Equation represents the forefront of new thinking about what it will take to boost STEM education, and, without a doubt, it will take expanded time.  We were also pleased that Education Week science education reporter, Erik Robelen, took note of the same theme in his own blog.


This is a guest post from Jennifer Davis, NCTL's Co-Founder and President.

Chicago’s children deserve better.  The majority of the city’s public school students today are not being prepared for success in this increasingly competitive global economy. Without dramatic change, it is unlikely that Chicago students living in poverty today will even have the chance to live a middle class life. That is unacceptable.  
Like other major U.S. cities, Chicago is working to ensure equal educational opportunities for all of its students, many of whom start school well behind their suburban counterparts. While progress has been made recently, there is a long way to go. The city’s schoolchildren score lower on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (in fourth-grade reading and math and eighth-grade math) than do children in other large cities, and only 57.5 percent of Chicago students graduate from high school. Without a high school diploma, students are doomed to low wages and few options.