This is the tenth part in a series I’ve been writing over the past two weeks about the report, How the World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top, which is an analysis of the world’s school systems to find out why some schools succeed and others do not.
Today, my focus is on the section of the report that emphasizes the importance of educational equity. Top-performing school systems strive to provide educational equity in addition to excellence. To improve a school system as a whole, both equity and excellence need to be improved. It’s a difficult balance that requires constant monitoring and intervention.
The extent to which a school system is able to realize the benefits of improved instruction depends on its ability to deploy it effectively: the system needs to ensure that every child, rather than just some children, has access to excellent instruction. Ensuring that every child benefits from high-quality instruction is not only an important end in itself, the evidence from international assessments suggests that strong performance for the system as a whole is dependent on this being the case. For example, the PISA scores of the top performing systems show a low correlation between the outcomes and the home background of the individual student. The best systems have produced approaches to ensure that the school can compensate for the disadvantages resulting from the student’s home environment.
The high-performing systems are better at ensuring that each student receives the instruction they need to compensate for their home background. They start by setting clear and high expectations for what the individual student should know, understand, and be able to do. They ensure that resources and funding are targeted at those students who need them most, not those who need them least. They then closely monitor the performance of schools against these expectations and develop effective mechanisms for intervening when these expectations are not met. Different systems have different ways of doing this. In general, the level of monitoring and intervention in the best-performing systems is inversely proportional to the capacity of individual teachers and the schools to improve by themselves. The best systems locate the processes for monitoring and intervention in the schools themselves, where they are able to identify the students in need of support and provide that support when needed on a continuous basis.