At what point in your life have you done things well because you’ve been threatened, Robert Slavin asked. The researcher and longtime school reform proponent posed the question to point out the fallacy behind the belief that school reform can come about by threatening teachers and principals. “People do things because they feel excited and motivated,” he told a crowd of urban school board members gathered this week to attend NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas. The meeting will be held through Saturday.
Slavin, the director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University, was a keynote speaker at today’s general session. Slavin spoke to audience of board members about how his program, Success For All, can work in urban schools. Success for All is a whole-school reform strategy that features research-proven tools, cooperative learning to engage students, and collaborative leadership for continuous improvement.
While Slavin advocated for reforms at the school and classroom levels, he warned that you can’t change the district by changing individual schools or teachers.
“Why do we see this great school and how do we make that the norm rather than the exception?” he asked. “The answer has to be to create a system that expects schools of that kind.”
Slavin suggested that school reform that works should spread to other schools in the district, using constant professional development as a tool to create systemic change. “Create a place where people want to work and are dedicated to helping other schools to achieve, too,” he said.
On Thursday, board members got to see Slavin’s program in action when they visited Pershing Elementary School in San Antonio School District. Pershing, a Title 1 school in downtown San Antonio, earned a state academic achievement award for increasing its reading scores as the result of Success for All.
NSBA’s Executive Director Thomas Gentzel spoke to attendees at today’s general session about the “active assault on public education from those who would let each child fend for herself or himself.”
Gentzel outlined how NSBA’s focus on legislative, legal, and public advocacy is about strengthening public education which “helps us become a strong democracy.”