Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doubling Student Performance!

I've been reading a recent book by Allan R. Odden of the University of Wisconsin, titled Doubling Student Performance and finding the resources to do it. Odden is a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA), Director of Strategic Management of Human Capital, and codirector of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. Odden and his research team have studied a number of schools and districts from around the country that have "doubled student performance" and closed the achievement gap on state tests over the past five to seven years. Teams of successful and performance-focused educational leaders focused on key strategies which have helped them to dramatically improve student learning.

I've been a fan of the work going on at the University of Wisconsin in education policy because it is highly practical--focused on "what works."

Over the next weeks, from time to time, I'm going to discuss Odden's research and the ten themes that he argues are central to the successful "doubling" of student performance. If you are an education professional, much of this will not be new to you at all. But in our community, the idea of doubling has not been adequately described. Its a process that we have begun, although we don't call it doubling. By "Doubling", Odden really means making huge gains in performance, from a point at, or just above average, as measured by proficiency scores, to above the 90 the percentile in performance. The term "doubling" is by no means scientifically exact. But the phrase the core concept of making grand, eye-popping performance improvements. The Districts that Odden studied didn't accomplish this over-night. They were engaged in a five plus year transformation that involved reallocation of resources, the establishment of very ambitious goals, and the use of data to manage change, and a number of other principles described in the book.

As I write about Odden's research, I intend to compare those principles to the strategic process currently underway in our school district. I'd like to use Odden's ideas as a template to discuss which of Odden's strategies are already underway in the district, how the district is going about applying those strategies, and to discuss how we are measuring our progress. Odden has identified ten strategies that take the resources that Districts already have, and make a huge impact on student resources. He doesn't argue that public education doesn't need more resources. But he does argue that public education needs to start by making the most effective possible use of the resources already available. He claims that providing more resources, globally, to public education does not by itself provide fair value for the new resources, because often those new resources are allocated to programs which are not connected by proven research to the "doubling" of student performance.

I'm reading "Doubling" because our district currently has its own "doubling" efforts under way, as I have said. We haven't used the "doubling" word, but essentially, that's the transformation that we've committed to. As we undertake this mission, I want to know more about what other districts are doing--how they measure success--on how rapidly their success has been achieved, so that we here in St. Cloud can measure our progress against what other districts have accomplished. So this is Doubling Post Number 1. As I have time, I'll post more about Odden's ten doubling principles, and which of those principles are underway here.

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