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The Flat World and Education. How Our Re-Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Nation’s Future. Fighting for the Right to Learn.

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the flat world and education

The Flat World and Education

How Our Re-Commitment

to Equity Will Determine

Our Nation’s Future

fighting for the right to learn
Fighting for the Right to Learn

Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.... The freedom to learn ... has been bought by bitter sacrifice. And whatever we may think of the curtailment of other civil rights, we should fight to the last ditch to keep open the right to learn…

-- W.E.B. DuBois (1949)

expectations for learning are changing
Expectations for Learning are Changing

The 21st century context means new expectations:

  • Ability to communicate
  • Adaptability to change
  • Ability to work in teams
  • Preparedness to solve problems
  • Ability to analyse and conceptualise
  • Ability to reflect on and improve performance
  • Ability to manage oneself
  • Ability to create, innovate and criticise
  • Ability to engage in learning new things at all times
  • Ability to cross specialist borders

Chris Wardlaw, "Mathematics in Hong Kong/China – Improving on Being First in PISA"

20 th century schools were not designed to meet these new demands
20th Century Schools Were Not Designed to Meet these New Demands

In current U.S. system:

70-75% graduate from high school

60% of graduates go on to college

40-50% of college entrants finish

About 30% of the age cohort gets a degree

Yet 70% of jobs involve “knowledge work” requiring specialized higher education


The U.S. is Falling Behind in Educational AttainmentApproximated by percentage of persons with ISCED3 qualfications in age groups 55-64, 45-55, 45-44 und 25-34 years






1. Excluding ISCED 3C short programmes 2. Year of reference 2004

3. Including some ISCED 3C short programmes 3. Year of reference 2003.

u s outcomes in international perspective 8 th grade pisa results in oecd nations 2006
U.S. Outcomes in International Perspective (8th Grade PISA Results in OECD Nations, 2006)





New Zealand





United Kingdom

U.S. is # 21 / 30 OECD nations

#31 / 40 top nations








New Zealand



U.S. is #25 / 30 OECD nations

#35 / 40 top nations

u s leads in of children in poverty 2007 oecd nations
U.S. Leads in % of Children in Poverty, 2007 (OECD Nations)





























United States


New Zealand

Czech Republic


the consequences of under education
The Consequences of Under-Education
  • A new high school dropout in 2000 had less than a 50% chance of getting a job
  • That job earned less than ½ of what the same job earned 20 years ago
  • Dropouts cost us >$200 billion / year
  • Lack of education is ever more strongly correlated with welfare dependency and incarceration
  • Prison populations have tripled and corrections costs have increased by 900%, now competing with higher education costs
sources of inequality
Sources of Inequality

Nationwide, schools serving minority and low-income students have

  • Lower funding levels
  • Larger class sizes
  • Less well-qualified teachers
  • Less engaging and challenging curriculum
  • Fewer college preparatory or AP courses
  • Larger school sizes
  • Fewer computers, books, supplies
segregation supports inequality
Segregation Supports Inequality
  • 2/3 of Black and Latino students attend predominantly minority schools with lower levels of instructional resources
  • Within “integrated” schools, most minority students are concentrated in low-track classes which receive less well-qualified teachers, less engaging curriculum, lower-quality materials, and communicate a message of inequality
curriculum access matters for learning
Curriculum Access Matters for Learning

Holding SES constant, minority and white students who have equally well-qualified teachers and comparable curriculum perform comparably in reading and mathematics.

the teaching gap creates most of the achievement gap
The Teaching Gap Creates Most of the Achievement Gap
  • The least experienced and prepared teachers generally teach the least advantaged students
  • High attrition rates for less-prepared and supported teachers create a revolving door and lost resources in less advantaged schools
  • Students taught by underqualified teachers have significantly lower achievement in reading and mathematics
Although expert teachers are the greatest influence on learning, the U.S. invests less in teaching than other countries
  • Preparation is uneven and largely unfunded
  • Salaries are unequal and noncompetitive
  • Well-prepared teachers are unequally distributed
  • Mentoring for new teachers is rare
  • Professional development is “hit & run”
  • Learning & collaboration time is scarce: US teachers teach far more hours and have less preparation time than any other advanced country

High science performance

Durchschnittliche Schülerleistungen im Bereich Mathematik

High average performance

Large socio-economic disparities

High average performance

High social equity

Strong socio-economic impact on student performance

Socially equitable distribution of learning opportunities

Low average performance

Large socio-economic disparities

Low average performance

High social equity


Low science performance

excellence equity together
Excellence & Equity Together
  • “Excellence and equity are not opposing concepts.  The definitions of the words include each other. 
  • Excellence without equity is simply not excellence; it is privilege. 
  • Excellence is superlative performance starting from a level playing field; performance made superlative through extraordinary effort and talent, not from the relative advantage of some at the expense of others. 
  • True excellence requires equity as a precondition.”
excellence equity together19
Excellence & Equity Together

And equity without excellence is not equity, it is tokenism and leads to a mediocrity that is good for no one's kids. 

Equity means we push every one of our students to excellence and tell them in no uncertain terms: we will support you along the way, no matter who your parents are, where they may have been born...the color of you skin...where you much money your parents make...the structure of your family...your prior academic performance...or even how long you have been in the district.  You are ours and we will support you.”

-- Adam Urbanski

what are high achieving and steeply improving nations doing
What are High-Achieving and Steeply-Improving Nations Doing?
  • Universal preschool and health care
  • Equitable funding with investments in high-need schools and students
  • Large investments in initial teacher education and ongoing support
  • A lean curriculum & performance assessments focused on higher order skills
  • Focus on multilingual, multicultural education
arguments against equalizing resources
Arguments Against Equalizing Resources
  • Those Students Can’t Learn Anyway
  • Tests take care of everything

(Measuring outcomes means we don’t have to worry about inputs)

  • Money Doesn’t Matter

-- Preschool

-- Teacher Qualifications

-- Learning Materials and Curriculum Access

-- Facilities

can tests take care of everything
Can tests take care of everything?

What happens when the system is guided by attaching rewards and sanctions to current tests?

What are the results of testing without investing?

dilemmas of test based accountability rewards or sanctions

John 100

Sandra 90

Jorge 80

Maura 70

Jasella 60

Francisco 20

Ave. Score = 70

% meeting standard = 66%








Ave. Score = 74

% meeting standard = 80%

Dilemmas of Test-Based Accountability: Rewards or Sanctions?
in the u s under nclb
In the U.S. under NCLB:
  • Every state has gained steeply on state tests, BUT
  • Gains have slowed on the Nat’l Assessment of Educational Progress, and even dropped in 8th grade reading,
  • U.S. scores and rankings dropped from 2003 to 2006 in math and science on PISA– a test measuring higher order thinking and performance skills.
naep 8 th and 12 th grade science
NAEP, 8th and 12th Grade Science

1. What two gases make up most of the Earth's atmosphere? 

  • A)  Hydrogen and oxygen
  • B)  Hydrogen and nitrogen
  • C)  Oxygen and carbon dioxide
  • D)  Oxygen and nitrogen

2.   Is a hamburger an example of stored energy? Explain why or why not.______________________________________________________________________

expectations for learning are changing28
Expectations for Learning are Changing

The 21st century context means new expectations:

  • Ability to communicate
  • Adaptability to change
  • Ability to work in teams
  • Preparedness to solve problems
  • Ability to analyse and conceptualise
  • Ability to reflect on and improve performance
  • Ability to manage oneself
  • Ability to create, innovate and criticise
  • Ability to engage in learning new things at all times
  • Ability to cross specialist borders

Chris Wardlaw, "Mathematics in Hong Kong/China – Improving on Being First in PISA"



As part of the Science Examination, Students must:

  • Identify a problem, design and plan an investigation, and evaluate their methods and techniques
  • Follow instructions and use techniques, apparatus and materials safely and effectively
  • Make and record observations, measurements, methods, and techniques with precision and accuracy
  • Interpret and evaluate observations and experimental data



high school biology exam victoria australia
High School Biology Exam, Victoria, Australia

3. When scientists design drugs against infectious agents, the term “designed drug” is often used.

A. Explain what is meant by this term. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Scientists aim to develop a drug against a particular virus that infects humans. The virus has a protein coat and different parts of the coat play different roles in the infective cycle. Some sites assist in the attachment of the virus to a host cell; others are important in the release from a host cell. The structure is represented in the following diagram:

The virus reproduces by attaching itself to the

surface of a host cell and injecting its DNA into the host

cell. The viral DNA then uses the components of host cell

to reproduce its parts and hundreds of new viruses bud off

from the host cell. Ultimately the host cell dies.

analysis and application of knowledge
Analysis and Application of Knowledge

B. Design a drug that will be effective against this virus. In your answer outline the important aspects you would need to consider. Outline how your drug would prevent continuation of the cycle of reproduction of the virus particle. Use diagrams in your answer. Space for diagrams is provided on the next page. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

design and scientific inquiry
Design and Scientific Inquiry

Before a drug is used on humans, it is usually tested on animals. In this case, the virus under investigation also infects mice.

C. Design an experiment, using mice, to test the effectiveness of the drug you have designed. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

in addition
In addition….

The Focus on Test-Based Accountability--and the Achievement Gap--turns the public’s gaze away from the Opportunity Gap.

what happens when the arguments against equity finally fall

New Jersey Math Achievement Trends,

4th Grade NAEP


White, 255


White, 248


National Ave., 239

White, 239

White, 236

Hispanic, 234

Black, 232


National Ave., 226

Hispanic, 224

NAEP Scale Score

National Ave., 222


Black, 217

National Ave., 219


Hispanic, 206

Black, 204

Hispanic, 204


Black, 198






Source: National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP Data Trends

What Happens When the Arguments Against Equity Finally Fall?
the new jersey story
The New Jersey Story
  • Parity funding for high-need districts
  • Investment in high-quality preschool with highly prepared teachers
  • Whole school reform based on understanding child development and engaging parents
  • Teacher education & PD focused on urban teaching
  • Early literacy programs

-- Expert coaches

-- Teacher development for language-rich teaching

-- Bilingual classroom libraries

-- Focus on student work and authentic reading

  • Performance-based assessment
characteristics of schools studied in ny il ca
Characteristics of Schools Studied in NY, IL, & CA
  • Predominantly low-income students of color
  • Graduation rates above the state average (averaging 90%)
  • 80-100% of students accepted to college
  • Non-selective admissions
  • Engaging, empowering approach to education, connected to communities and families
  • Small Schools
  • Reduced Pupil Loads
  • Long-term Relationships
  • Advisory Systems
  • Close parental contact
rigorous relevant instruction
Rigorous & Relevant Instruction
  • Untracked college prep coursework made relevant, interdisciplinary, and problem-oriented
  • Supports for student learning
  • Internships
  • Project-Based, hands-on, language-rich learning
  • Performance Assessment & Portfolios
  • A Culture of Revision and Redemption

Hands-On LearningCreates

Engagement & Success

professional collaboration learning
Professional Collaboration & Learning
  • Intensive retreats
  • Shared planning time
  • Teaching teams
  • Regular professional development
  • Inquiry about student learning
  • Leadership focused on instruction
what we need in order to achieve instructional quality equity
What We Need In Order to Achieve Instructional Quality & Equity
  • High-Quality Preschool Education
  • Adequate and equitable resources
  • Schools designed for effective caring and teaching
  • Well-trained teachers and principals in every school

-- Urban teacher & leader residencies & Grow Your Own Programs

-- Service scholarships to prepare & serve in high-need fields and locations

  • Curriculum for all students focused on higher-order thinking and performance skills
  • Performance assessments developed with language needs in mind
insisting on quality education as a civil right
Insisting on Quality Education as a Civil Right

"On some positions, Cowardice asks the question,

'Is it safe?'

Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?'

And Vanity comes along and asks the question,

'Is it popular?'

But Conscience asks the question 'Is it right?'

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular,

But he must do it because Conscience tells him

it is right." 

-Martin Luther King, Jr., "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution", March 31, 1968