How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better—a report that examines 20 systems in action– makes a unique contribution to this critical global agenda. Building on their 2007 study but with much more precision, in this remarkable report McKinsey gets inside the pathways. It sorts out systems according to starting points and progression. These performance stage continua—from poor to fair, fair to good, good to great, and great to excellence—are in turn unraveled according to intervention clusters within given contexts. In each case it is very clear that all improving entities, even if their starting point is dismal, are led by a combinations of leaders who are self-aware that they are engaged in a phenomenon that the report calls ‘it’s a system thing’—a small number of critical factors that go together to create the chemistry of widespread improvement.
“It’s very difficult to use this data to say anything about the effectiveness of teachers. If you tried to do this in my country, Finnish teachers would probably go on strike and wouldn’t return until this crazy idea went away. Finns don’t believe you can reliably measure the essence of learning. You know, one big difference in thinking about education and the whole discourse is that in the U.S. it’s based on a belief in competition. In my country, we are in education because we believe in cooperation and sharing. Cooperation is a core starting point for growth.“