Bambrick-Santoyo has a remarkable track record of turning around poor schools. His strategies don't require any fancy technology (though I think technology could help), but they do require that teachers and administrators break from some old ways of thinking.
At its core, Data-Driven Instruction (DDI) relies on believing that assessments are worthy goals. Many educators who hate these tests spit out the phrase "teaching to the test" as if it were an epithet. The negative attitude towards standardized tests is understandable. For many schools, end-of-year assessments are painful autopsies that expose their students' and teachers' deficiencies when measured by a meter stick that has little to do with what went on all year.
It doesn't have to be this way.
1) State standards for K-12 are getting better. I don't want to wade too far into the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) battles, but what I think many educators can agree on is that most states have created better standards over the past couple decades. Coherent curricula matter, and CCSS has made people pay attention to this. The standards are not a curriculum, but when standards are focused and well-organized, they can help schools develop coherent curricula.
2) More states are adopting end-of-year assessments that don't suck. This is critical. As states adopt higher-quality assessments to measure how students do against their better standards, teaching to the test isn't such a bad thing. Teaching to the sort of assessment I took in school (nothing but multiple choice questions with low cognitive demand) would be criminal. As assessments become much more sophisticated and include constructed response, technology-enhanced items, and even performance tasks, teaching to these new assessments shouldn't be so repugnant. According to a RAND study, these new assessments can lead to better instruction, but only if (among other things):
- they are part of an integrated assessment system that includes formative and summative components and
- the new assessments are a component of a broader systemic reform effort.
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy either way: Teachers who fight the test will have students who struggle on the autopsy. Teachers and schools who find ways to improve the instructional processes with the assessments in mind have a better chance of reaping great rewards for their students.