Tag: saturday school

What’s Wrong with Schools (Hint: It’s Not Class Size)

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How do we tell if a school is successful? Conventional wisdom says to look at measures like class size and per pupil spending. But according to newly-published research from Harvard, those traditional models don’t really tell us much at all.

The researchers studied 35 charter schools in New York, looking for measures to assess a school’s effectiveness. After finding out that the resource-based models (per-pupil spending, class size, and proportion of teachers with advanced degrees) didn’t correlate with school effectiveness, they tried to figure out what factors were meaningful. The surprising answer? “Frequent teacher feedback, data driven instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and a relentless focus on academic achievement explains almost half the variation in school effectiveness,” the authors write.

Of course, high-dosage tutoring doesn’t come cheap, and many struggling school systems don’t have the resources to implement a program like the one the Harvard profs recommend here. Still, if this data holds true, Baltimore City school’s new Saturday School plan sounds like a step in the right direction. How would you reform schools?

Baltimore Students Face School on Saturdays

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It sounds like the sort of thing you say to threaten a kid whose grades are slipping:  If you don’t start focusing in class, you’ll have to go to school on Saturday! But for some middle school students in the Baltimore City school system, Saturday School is about to become a reality — and not as a punishment, but as a time for extra support and (allegedly) “fun.”

City schools CEO Andres Alonso has long been a proponent of Saturday school, which is thought to improve academic performance. (Even a little bit of extra schooling may help — a University of Maryland study showed that even a few snow days make end-of-year math scores go down.) When 2011 math scores declined (61 percent of third through eighth graders passed, compared to 66 percent in 2010), he jumped at the chance to try out this new program. Some schools are starting this week with programs that will be similar to the summer school program the city already runs, in that it’ll focus on hands-on learning, projects, and curriculum support.

The Saturday School initiative will run for 10 weeks, and will give students an extra 20 to 30 hours of math instruction leading up to the annual tests in March. If the program works and scores go up, students may be looking at a lot of busy Saturdays in the future.

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