The Education Trust

I just started reading Gerald Bracey’s recent book about educational research: “Reading Educational Research: How to Avoid Getting Statistically Snookered.”  He recommended checking out the database at the Education Trust.  Here is their mission statement:

The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college, and forever closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this — All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.

Their database was very interesting.  The data is primarily meant to show that schools with high povery and high minority populations can still manage to do well on standardized tests.  Bracey suggests it also shows the high impact of poverty on children in schools.  (In fact, one thing I learned during the recent Seattle school fight over using race to choose students for a school was that poverty is a much better indicator of how well a child will do.)

I found a few other interesting things at the site: a link to a recent On Point radio broadcast related to the re-authorization of NCLB for one.

I also found a copy of the Education Trust’s report on high-impact schools called Gaining Traction, Graining Ground: How Some High Schools Accelerate Learning for Struggling Students.  The report reviews the practices of schools that have had a positive effect on student achievement despite demographics that normally reflect underperformance.

The executive summary lays out five spheres of influence and shows how high impact schools are doing things just a bit differently from low-impact schools.  The five spheres are:

1. Culture: High impact schools are focused on students and their future outside of school rather than simply on getting them to graduation.  They are focused on academics rather than rules. They are consistently focused on achievement-related goals.  And, they embrace external standards and assessments.

2. Academic Core:  The high impact schools really believe that every student can achieve.  They make it possible for every student to take high level courses.  And, they use data for future improvement.

3. Support:  High impact schools don’t just help kids catch up, they keep them up.  The report says, “Little is left to chance.”  They have early warning systems to identify students before they fail rather than waiting until they fail. Guidance counselors actively monitor ALL students not just those who are referred to them.  Finally, they use the community resources to aid students in post-secondary preparation rather than for drug-abuse prevention or dropouts.

4. Teachers:  Teachers are assigned based on where they are needed rather than where they want to go.  Support for new teachers is about instruction and curriculum rather than personal development or social integration.  High impact schools based the student/teacher ratio on students…so classes for struggling students are smaller than those with more independent learners.  Finally, administrators are more involved in selecting who works at their schools.  (I’m reminded of Jim Collins’ idea about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.)  Teacher quality is incredibly important to student achievement so this one should be a red alert for all schools.

5. Time and Other Resources:  High impact schools are more deliberate about their use of time.  They focus ninth-grade instruction on reading.  (This time, I’m reminded of something I heard about Jeb Stuart High School in Fairfax and its focus on bringing kids up to reading level in the ninth grade.)  In high impact schools, all kids are taught in grade-level or college prep courses rather than being assigned to remediation.  The schools are better at protecting academic time.  Finally, the high impact schools keep up the pressure through senior year.

These all seem like reasonable goals for any school.  The secret is that these characteristics have to be paid more than just lip service.  If a school says it is all about instruction, then that should be apparent in every classroom, every day.  Ultimately, the message I took from the findings was that both high and average impact schools were trying to do things, but the high impact schools made a greater commitment to them.


  1. 1 The Education Trust Revisited « In Another Place

    […] August 18th, 2007 · No Comments While I learned about the Education Trust from Bracey, he does not trust them at all.  Here’s his take on the On Point broadcast I referenced in an earlier post. […]

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