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Taking Deeper Learning to Scale

Taking Deeper Learning to Scale

For some time now, it has been evident that the policies pursued by the United States to elevate the academic performance of students, particularly those who are most economically disadvantaged, have not produced the results that were promised or hoped for. Lack of progress and growing opposition to high-stakes testing have led a growing number of educators and policy advocates to conclude that education policies and the strategies used to help underperforming schools and to promote student achievement must change. Some have called for a more deliberate focus on creating conditions that promote highly effective teaching and that support more deeply engaged learning.

This report analyzes the efforts of schools and school districts to improve academic achievement, particularly among students who have historically underperformed. Three cases are presented: Ocean Unified School District (OUSD), Brockton High School (BHS), and Washington High School.

  • OUSD is an affluent school district that seems to have all the resources needed to ensure that the educational needs of students are met, yet for a variety of reasons it remains unable to reduce race and class disparities in student achievement due to the maintenance of a system that is highly tracked and where traditional approaches to teaching and learning (e.g., lecture format) are pervasive.
  • The second case, BHS, is presented to illustrate how deeper learning has been used as a strategy to raise achievement at a large school serving predominantly students of color and students from families with limited income. The author examines how the school overcame internal and external obstacles as it implemented changes in teaching and learning that led to sustained improvements in student achievement.
  • Finally, the case of Washington High School is presented to show how schools composed primarily of students from families of limited income foster deeper learning and serve as a lever for broader school change. The case also shows why the school’s preoccupation with raising test scores had prevented its leaders from recognizing the potential for using deeper learning to promote student achievement and address other challenges facing students.

The cases are presented to reveal the potential of using deeper learning as a reform strategy that can lead to greater equity in academic outcomes. Equity is the critical challenge facing American education today. By drawing attention to schools that have met these challenges successfully and by identifying the obstacles that have prevented others from obtaining similar results, the hope is that it may be possible to promote greater progress elsewhere.

Taking Deeper Learning to Scale by Pedro A. Noguera is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.