Something I’ve discussed before is the importance of curriculum for educational achievement–something educational ‘reformers’ completely ignore. An interview with Bill Schmidt, co-director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University, by Anna Kuchment makes this clear (boldface mine):
Kuchment: It jumped out at me this year that Massachusetts and Minnesota do strikingly well on these tests. Massachusetts students earned the highest overall scores, and more than half were at or above proficiency. In Minnesotta, 53 percent of fourth graders and 48 percent of 8th graders scored at or above proficiency. In 2007, both these states were measured against foreign countries in math and science, and they did well: Massachusetts’s fourth graders scored behind only two jurisdictions in math (Hong Kong and Singapore) and behind only Singapore in science. Minnesota’s scores were only slightly lower. What are these states doing right?
Schmidt: I can speak most directly to the Minnesota story, but in both cases I really believe it’s the curriculum. That’s not the only factor, of course, but Minnesota worked hard at its state standards. They have very coherent, focused and rigorous standards. Those are things we worked with them on. Those came into place in 2003. Their teachers then changed what they were covering as a result. They began to teach to more rigorous and coherent standards. It got to be a major aspect of why they improved. Massachusetts, too.
As long as we view education reform as, first and foremost, a labor management problem, we will not significantly improve educational performance.