Sunday, 5 December 2010
HOW THE WORLD'S MOST IMPROVED SCHOOL SYSTEMS KEEP GETTING BETTER
McKinsey have just published a really interesting report 'How the World’s Most
Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better'...
The report looked at twenty school systems from around the world: Armenia, Aspire (a US charter school system), Boston (Massachusetts), Chile, England, Ghana, Hong Kong, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Long Beach (California), Madhya Pradesh (India), Minas Gerais (Brazil), Ontario (Canada), Poland, Saxony (Germany), Singapore, Slovenia, South Korea, and Western Cape (South Africa). They are all improving but have markedly different levels of performance, and the report examines how each has achieved significant, sustained, and widespread gains in student outcomes, as measured by international and national assessments.
"Almost every country has undertaken some form of school system reform during the past two decades, but very few have succeeded in improving their systems from poor to fair to good to great to excellent. This report looks closely at 20 school systems from different parts of the world, and from an array of starting points, that have registered significant, sustained, and widespread student outcome gains, and examines why what they have done has succeeded where so many others failed. In undertaking this research, we have sought to understand which elements are specific to the individual system and whichare of broader or universal relevance. We believe that what we have discovered will help other systems and educationalleaders to replicate this success."
Mona Mourshed, Chinezi Chijioke and Michael Barber
The report identifies the elements that are required for school systems as they move from poor to fair to good to great to excellent performance. The findings were as follows:
"A system can make significant gains from wherever it starts – and these gains can be achieved in six years or less.
There is too little focus on ‘process’ in the debate today. Improving system performance ultimately comes down to improving the learning experience of students in their classrooms.
Each particular stage of the school system improvement journey is associated with a unique set of interventions. The research suggests all improving systems implement similar sets of interventions to move from one particular performance level to the next, irrespective of culture, geography, politics, or history.
A system’s context might not determine what needs to be done, but it does determine how it is done. Though each performance stage is associated with a common set of interventions, there is substantial variation in how a system implements these interventions with regard to their sequence, timing, and roll-out – there is little or no evidence of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to reform implementation.
Six interventions occur equally at every performance stage for all systems. The research suggests that six interventions are common to all performance stages across the entire improvement journey: building the instructional skills of teachers and management skills of principals, assessing students, improving data systems, facilitating improvement through the introduction of policy documents and education laws, revising standards and curriculum, and ensuring an appropriate reward and remuneration structure for teachers and principals.
Systems further along the journey sustain improvement by balancing school autonomy with consistent teaching practice. While the study shows that systems in poor and fair performance achieve improvement through a center that increases and scripts instructional practice for schools and teachers, such an approach does not work for systems in ‘good’ performance onwards.
Leaders take advantage of changed circumstances to ignite reforms. Across all the systems studied, one or more of three circumstances produced the conditions that triggered reform: a socio-economic crisis; a high profile, critical report of system performance; or a change in leadership.
Leadership continuity is essential. Leadership is essential not only in sparking reform but in sustaining it. Two things stand out about the leaders of improving systems. Firstly, their longevity: the median tenure of the new strategic leaders is six years and that of the new political leaders is seven years."
This is a hugely important report which everyone interested in schools and learning should carefully read. This is doubly important as we face the latest changes and challenges outlined in the White Paper. If you want to read the report you can visit the McKinsey website at http://www.mckinsey.com/