I live in an affluent, high-standardized-test-scoring school district. Some of the observations made here (e.g. pervasive use of private tutoring, learning problems often pushed onto parents) absolutely describe our district. Opposition is likely to be fierce from all sides to any change that might threaten the all-important (for neighborhood reputation and property values) test scores.
As a parent, how can I tell whether the schools are good or the teachers are good? The only measures we have available to us are the standardized test scores, which are high. If we don't have the means to measure the contribution of the school & the teachers to our kids' learning, then it seems unlikely that any significant changes would be introduced in the schools. We'll continue to address concerns about learning by going outside the school system, i.e. more tutoring, more "enrichment", more online supplementation, etc.
Is there a way out of this box?
I'd love to see real data on parent supplementation/outside tutoring, with the reason(s)documented, available on the internet for every school in the country. I know it's a pipe dream, but it would be really useful and easy to do with a well-designed questionaire. It sure would raise a red flag about school quality if a highly-rated (test scores) school had 40% of students receiving regular instruction from parents or other tutoring sources.
I know many parents in affluent, highly-rated districts who have been saying for decades that the schools are riding on the student demographics/parent efforts.
I think there is a way out, and that way is the path taken by Richard DuFour at Adlai Stevenson High School 25 years ago, when he developed professional learning communities.
I've also come to think that the core feature that makes professional learning communities work, the one characteristic without which you have no chance of success, is a school-wide commitment to the individual student.
I realize that you have an entire school system to worry about and that I am focused only on one child. However, after many years of experience with education, I have become convinced that a large percentage of children with real potential are brushed aside and discouraged by education systems that concentrate on the system rather than the needs of each child. The converse is also true. Where the needs of each child are understood and accommodated, schools succeed. I have experienced it personally.
a grandfather takes a stand