Since leaving the Milwaukee school board, I have occasionally been asked for advice by people tackling other urban school districts. Here are ten recommendations, based on my experience:
1. Make sure there is a strong program to identify, prepare, and evaluate principals.
2. Use value-added measures to pierce the curtain. How can these measures be used to give immediate feedback to teachers on their students’ learning?
3. Follow through on initiatives. Before starting an initiative, determine how its success will be measured and make sure the initiative’s continuation is based on results, rather than a change in personnel.
4. Make sure that teachers teaching reading know and follow the research.
5. Don’t make schools do everything. Let schools specialize in particular students and subjects.
6. Don’t let high averages mask the student who is missing out.
7. Encourage alternative governance models, but don’t expect them to be the magic bullet. While charter and choice programs can increase the diversity of educational opportunities, they are no guarantee of success.
8. Evaluate using outcomes, rather than standardized practices, but offer systems of support to help schools get better.
9. Avoid math mush; emphasize mastery; don’t pass off vagueness as creativity.
10. Connect with the job market; don’t make college attendance the only measure of success.