After hearing evidence of how parental choice programs can raise student achievement, some of those attending the November 1998 Wingspread conference in Racine, Wisconsin recommended that such efforts be expanded and evaluated. While it was recognized that such efforts would benefit poor and minority students the most, those conferees preferring choice noted that, in principle, the same opportunity should be extended to all students.
In addition to parental choice, the conference papers and discussion groups suggest that a series of specific best practices show promise for raising student achievement. These include:
- Decentralize state and district control: Set goals, delegate operational responsibility, and hold each unit accountable for results.
- Raise standards, measure results, and provide incentives to teachers and students who excel.
- Emphasize a solid academic core curriculum; set standards for teaching practices, student participation, and student effort; gather ongoing data; and measure progress over time.
- Engage universities and other research organizations to assist in implementing research-based innovations that work and measuring the achievement results.
- Forge partnerships and joint programs with professional education associations.
- Coordinate efforts with social service and other organizations focused on educational improvement.
- Recruit teachers with subject mastery; improve teacher preparation; and employ alternative certification programs.
- Extend learning time through homework, summer school, and after-school programs; provide help for students to meet more rigorous standards.
- Provide a “consumer guide” for parents on each school’s performance; establish feedback mechanisms for parental input and criticism; measure ongoing customer satisfaction levels.
- Investigate the apparent success of smaller schools and smaller school districts.