I thought you might be interested in AEI's July Educational Outlook Pieces of the puzzle: Factors in improving achievement of urban school districts. In this outlook, Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of Great City Schools, identifies urban school systems that demonstrated high achievement or significant achievement gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and examined possible factors behind these gains. Casserly finds that improvement in these districts was less related to how well state and local standards aligned with NAEP frameworks than to the instructional and organizational practices in the participating districts.
Among the key points:
- There are encouraging signs that US urban school districts are effectively innovating to improve students' performance--between 2003 and 2009, data showed gains in math and reading in grades four and eight--yet more reform efforts are needed to raise student achievement in these districts.
- The key to improved student performance in major cities is reforming urban districts' instructional and organizational practices and supporting effective implementation of new Common Core State Standards.
- Urban school districts can boost math and reading performance via six reform strategies: strong leadership, robust accountability mechanisms, a coherent curriculum, professional development programming, district wide support, and quantitative assessment.
Overall, the Outlook suggests that there is increasing reason to be optimistic about the future of urban public education, not simply because large-city schools are making significant progress, but because this progress appears to be the result of purposeful and coherent reforms.
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