The conference attended to both research and practice themes. Panelists and discussants included Harvard University faculty members, prominent school-improvement consultants, and K-12 practitioners known for supervisory and instructional effectiveness. The AGI selected fourteen exemplary high schools to feature, based on measures of their students’ progress. A team from each school responded to specific questions concerning conference themes. Some featured schools are places where student outcomes have improved markedly over the past several years. We learned what changes in supervision and professional community appear important to these changes. A few of the schools have excelled consistently for a number of years. We learned how they sustain their excellence.
One supervisor and two teachers from each school described particular aspects of their work, responding to specific questions defined in advance by the AGI organizers. Extended, detailed discussions between presenters and discussants drew out key details and nuances in order to distill professional insights for research and practice. These discussions delved deep inside the “black box” of the instructional core in some of the nation’s most effective high schools. The featured high schools were from Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio, Texas and Washington DC, with the majority from Massachusetts. The Massachusetts schools are the state’s most effective at producing 8th to 10th grade gains in mathematics and English language arts. Massachusetts is among the leading states in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, so leading Massachusetts is not a trivial accomplishment. The schools from outside Massachusetts emerged from the AGI search for great examples to feature.
Speakers are experts who have studied or participated in improving instruction and who, based on their work, can provide examples and contrast and compare alternative approaches.
Each panelist was asked to do three things:
(1) describe and draw key lessons from their own work;
(2) respond to a set of questions that focus on key conference themes; and
(3) suggest some specific measures that other high schools might take to support the spread of quality instruction.
Each panel was interviewed in detail by a fellow practitioner and one of the following scholars: Stacey Childress of the Harvard Business School; Ronald Ferguson of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Kennedy School; Richard Murnane of the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Thomas Payzant of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (former superintendent, Boston Public Schools); Jon Saphier, Research for Better Teaching, Acton, MA.