I spent much of my time this summer reading and thinking about the relationship between assessment and student achievement. It was part of my doctoral studies and the assignment helped me become more familiar with educational research and academic writing. My takeaways from a month of research are as follows:
Formative assessment and feedback are so important to student learning. We do not help teachers enough with these skills. Frequent, specific, interactive feedback between student and teacher during the learning process improves student achievement. Leaders inside education and the public, focus more on summative assessment because it is documented and easier to see results. I want our faculty to be talking more about better ways to provide feedback to students.
I am really interested in “value-added” statistics of teachers. This is the idea that the effect of a teacher on a group of students can be isolated from other factors and can be measured through standardized tests. I think a simple way to improve education is to get smarter people to become teachers, however, with such low salaries and status in my countries, including my own of America, it is a challenge to get the best university students to go into education. You can also recognize and reward current great teachers, and retrain and support or counsel out of teaching, underperforming teachers. Combined with classroom observations, a value-added number can help leaders identify people who need help.
It was fascinating reading the research of the assessment for accountability movement in the USA. Holding teachers and principals responsible for their students lack of growth, has had a big impact on the morale of faculty. The data shows growth in mathematics for students close to the proficiency level or underachieving students and no improvement in reading levels. A broader range of assessments and more support for families is the direction schools should be going.
Below you can read my review of the current literature. =
Today I completed an intensive, 8-day course in International Education Policy at Lehigh University as part of my doctoral program. The class focused on tools researchers use to analyze policy. In my job as head of school, I deal with policies coming from the international, national and school levels, either implementing or making them. The course gave me a new perspective on the importance of policy in education. It was my first class in the Comparative International Education (CIE) department. From Lehigh University’s website. The class had a good mix of researchers, teachers and NGO employees.
Graduates completing their degree in the CIE program may move into positions as government officials and education policy makers, research/policy institute scientists, development program officers, or work in various non-governmental and educational organizations either in the United States or in countries around the world.
The culminating project for the eight days was a policy analysis. I chose the adoption of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) by government schools in Japan. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Technology (MEXT) set a goal of 200 local schools to be authorized the IBDP by 2018. I read many reports and looked at data to come up with my recommendations. I am indebted to Dr. Beverly Yamamoto of Osaka University and her work with the IB and MEXT. You can read her full research report. I would also like to thank Dr. Emily Anderson of Centenary University who taught the course and my classmates. You can read my case study analysis below.
Alan Wechsler wrote an excellent article about international schools earlier this month in The Atlantic. The International School Surge: Increased demand for a “western” education around the world has reshaped whom these institutions serve. The piece gives a great overview of the pros and cons of international education and how it fits in with the global economy.
The photo above captures a bit of international school culture. I hosted a BBQ for the school elementary baseball team after a parent-student game to culminate the season. In the photo are citizens from six different countries.
I have worked in international schools since 1992. I have seen the growth of the number of schools and the switch to local families instead expatriates enrolling in them. When I started there were around 1,000 international schools, today there are over 8,000 and it is expected to grow to 16,000 in the next ten years. That is good for my future job prospects! Locals now make up 80% of the student population. Driving the demand are two factors. First is the quality of higher education in the USA and other western countries. Rich people want to send their children to the best universities in the world. They also want fluent English, which has become the world’s language of commerce and culture. My third culture kids (TCK) have more in common with international school students throughout the world than they do with students in my home of Northern Michigan.
All of these international students taking up spaces in American universities does have some downsides. They take spaces from US students and create competition for jobs afterward. Researcher Monica Gallego Rude points out in the article that this system is increasing inequality in the world, with a small group of rich families paying for access to the English-speaking global economy while most of the world does not have this access. Tuition can be quite high in international schools. Our tuition is over $20,000 US per year.
I am really interested in the future of international education and where it is headed.