Teacher journal archive (2008-2011)

Article Title

Top schools : why teachers make a difference


Educators have always known it is the teacher who makes the difference, but the research evidence confirms that knowledge. Getting the right people to become teachers; developing them into effective instructors; and ensuring that the system is able to deliver the best possible instruction to each child. These are the three key strategies used by the best-performing schools and systems, according to Michael Barber and Mona Mourshed, partners in McKinsey & Company, management consultants. To identify those strategies, Barber and Mourshed looked at the qualities of what they called the 25 best-performing schools and systems internationally, using results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as a measure. In addition, they also completed a literature review and interviewed more than 100 experts, policy-makers and practitioners. Their report, 'How the world's best performing school systems come out on top', begins with an overview of reform efforts in a number of OECD countries that they describe as 'well thought-out and far-reaching in their objectives' but 'perplexing failures'. So what happens in the high performing schools and systems to make a difference? The McKinsey report nominates three fundamental similarities in those systems where students consistently perform better than their peers in international testing: they get the right people to become teachers; they develop these people into effective instructors; and, they put in place systems and targeted support to ensure that every child is able to benefit from excellent instruction. We must, say Barber and Mourshed, follow the three guiding principles: the quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers; the only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction; and achieving universally high outcomes is only possible by putting in place mechanisms to ensure that schools deliver high-quality instruction to every child. [Author abstract, ed]

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