Out of concern that the nation’s schools—particularly those working with traditionally underserved populations—are not adequately preparing all students to succeed in college and careers, education policymakers have launched a series of major reform efforts in recent years. Most prominent among these are two initiatives that call for fundamental changes in the areas of curriculum and assessment: the Common Core State Standards and new common assessments that measure college and career readiness.
In the face of these changes, which call for a shift to deeper learning, many schools will need to transform their teaching methods, organizational systems, and approaches to leadership. When it comes to creating a rich learning environment, schools serving low-income students and students of color tend to have the furthest distance to travel. Many have struggled to maintain a broad curriculum and felt forced to focus on test preparation in the face of budget cuts, high-stakes exams, and increased segregation of students on the basis of race and socioeconomic status. Successful implementation of these major new policy initiatives will thus need to overcome inequities in funding, learning opportunities, and learning conditions that are pervasive in the American educational system and that contribute to the persistence of the so-called “achievement gap.”
This report addresses the issue of equity in a crucial dimension: teaching and learning. Pedro Noguera, Linda Darling-Hammond, and Diane Friedlaender argue that, to ensure equity in access to deeper learning, practices and policies must address the context for education both outside and inside of schools. To enable low-income students to learn deeply and successfully, schools that serve them must offer a high-quality instructional experience and the wraparound services that can help ameliorate the stressful conditions they experience in their communities.
A new book, Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes, provides a powerful analysis of these different ends of an ideological spectrum – from market-based experiments to strong state investments in public education.