Focus on Learning: What Works and What Doesn’t

August 26, 2010

I am a big fan of the  Consortium on Chicago School Research because they ask hard, serious questions about what works and what doesn’t in student learning, and publish the results without fear or favor.  Deep down they are advocates for all students learning, and they appear immune to the “that sounds good so it must work” blarney that infects much education policy advocacy.

Here’s their quick summary of two recent studies (with links to the studies themselves) that shows their devotion to finding out what works and what doesn’t:

The Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute has released two new policy briefs examining the effects of sweeping high school curricular reform in Chicago Public Schools. As states and districts across the country implement college-preparatory curriculum standards for all students, College Prep for All? What We’ve Learned from Chicago’s Efforts suggests that these efforts could have the opposite effects of those intended.  Specifically, the brief finds that Chicago’s 1997 policy eliminating remedial classes and requiring all high school students to take college-preparatory coursework had no positive effects on student achievement and may actually have hurt the college prospects of some top students.

A complementary policy brief explores the effects of requiring students with below-average math skills to take two periods of algebra in a single year. The report, Are Two Algebra Classes Better Than One? The Effects of Double-Dose Instruction in Chicago, found that the policy, when paired with additional support for teachers, showed significant promise for improving the academic skills of all students.

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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