Voices in Education

The Role of Resource Reform in Improvement and Innovation
Part of why classrooms look the same as they did more than fifty years ago is the tendency to cling to traditional instructional delivery methods and arrangements. Not only have demands for the workplace vastly changed, but the way students engage in learning has, too. We quickly lose kids with teaching methods like lectures. Students want to use technology, learn by doing, and plug into the real world. So, not only can we no longer afford to cling to policies and practices that limit how we teach—such as class size quotas—we must not limit opportunities to meet new demands, like using technology in a blended learning classroom, using extremely effective teachers with larger classes, and targeting supports or eliminating less effective teachers with robust evaluation systems.

Instinctively, the issue of funding education raises everyone’s hackles; rather than considering reallocation practices, they believe we must find the money to invest in education. However, what folks fail to understand is, it’s not just about resources; it’s about aligning decisions to specified outcomes for students, finding efficiencies, and being much smarter about how all the intricate parts of the educational system impact students, from teachers, to curriculum, to teacher pensions. One positive outcome from the past years’ recession is that many districts made great inroads in creating better alignment and focus by being forced to think more strategically about resources.

Recently, the Building State Capacity and Productivity Center at Edvance Research, Inc. (where I am a research associate) published a report that thoroughly explains why we must consider how fiscal resources are tightly linked to improving outcomes for students. The report illustrates why we must prioritize how we allocate resources; not only money, but the most important one—people (which again, of course, comes back to money). In the latest of the series, The SEA of the Future, the topic “Prioritizing Productivity” advocates for state education leaders to consider how they can better support districts and schools to improve outcomes for students. The contents include the following:
  • Dr. Marguerite Roza offers specific steps on how states can improve resource decision-making;
  • Data Quality Campaign (DQC) weighs in on how improved data use can provide timely and reliable information to decision-makers from the state to the classroom levels;
  • The Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) offers insight on how to create teacher evaluation systems that can support and drive instructional change for teachers; and,
  • Drs. Marguerite Roza and Michael Podgursky share information on how teacher pensions impact districts’ ability to attract, retain, and pay for teachers.
Put by Roza, “Today’s way of schooling won’t be sustainable tomorrow.” And, I will argue, it is no longer appropriate for tomorrow’s students either.

About the Author: Heather Zavadsky is the director of EdPractice Connect, research associate at Edvance Research, and the author of School Turnarounds: The Essential Role of Districts (Harvard Education Press, 2012).