We know what works, but it’s not easy

We Know (A Few) Things That Work to improve high-poverty schools, write economists Greg J. Duncan of University of California at Irvine’s School of Education and Richard J. Murnane of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  In Restoring Opportunity: The Crisis of Inequality and the Challenge for American Education, they describe the success of Boston’s pre-K program, the University of Chicago’s K-12 charter school network and New York City’s small high schools of choice. 

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  1. There seems to be a widespread lack of awareness of the fact that the period from the end of WWII until the mid-late 70s was a large historical aberration. The WWII damage of Europe’s and Japan’s industrial bases was so severe that the US had no competition for our industrial products until those countries rebuilt, so paying high-skill wages for low-skill work was financially feasible. By the late 70s, that was no longer true. This fact needs to be taken into account when addressing current educational and career issues.

    As far as preschool-ES is concerned, the best data we have came from Project Follow Through and the most effective method was Englemann’s Direct Instruction, which was specifically developed to address the achievement gap, and which has been ignored ever since – because his methods are diametrically opposed to the most cherished ed world theories and methods. In addition, that effectiveness was achieved with teachers without college degrees, who had been trained in the DI method – again going against the ed world’s (always more college) definition of teacher quality – no doubt influenced by union pressure.