The Atlantic magazine has compiled a report titled American Schools: Here's What's Working, that poses three ideas for improving education in the United States: Have students grade their teachers; home-school your children; and teach writing 1950s style.
The full report isn't available online, but individual articles from past issues of the Atlantic were used to compile it, and links to those are included below.
The contentious teachers strike that rocked Chicago earlier this month made teacher evaluation a hot topic. The current toolkit for evaluating a teacher's effectiveness includes classroom visits from evaluators and tying pay to student performance on standardized tests. The Atlantic magazine proposes another: Let kids tell us which teachers are doing a good job.
"Why Kids Should Grade Teachers," by Amanda Ripley, says that "if you ask kids the right questions, they can identify, with uncanny accuracy, their most — and least — effective teachers."
Ripley cites a 2009 Gates Foundation study that showed responses to student surveys could predict which classes would have the most test-score improvement at the end of the school year. The questions that had the strongest correlation with test score results were:
1. Students in this class treat the teacher with respect.
2. My classmates behave the way my teacher wants them to.
3. Our class stays busy and doesn't waste time.
4. In this class, we learn a lot almost every day.
5. In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes.
Kids' answers for a given teacher remained similar from class to class, the survey found.
"The Homeschool Diaries," by Paul Elie, chronicles the experiences of a professor at New York's Columbia University and his wife, who take on the task of home-schooling their children after rejecting the expense of private schools and the hopelessness of New York City's overcrowded, underfunded public schools. For people faced with similar alternatives, home-schooling for elementary school students is a great option, Elie said.
"The Writing Revolution," by Peg Tyre, studies a failing high school on New York's Staten Island that reformed its poor student performance by "placing an overwhelming focus on teaching the basics of analytic writing, every day, in virtually every class." Said the "Here's What's Working" report, "What followed was an extraordinary blossoming of student potential, across nearly every subject — one that has made New Dorp (High School, in Staten Island) a model for educational reform."