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US schools with "a culture of excellence" seem to have a handful of simple features in common.

Andreae Downs picks out six essential ingredients in the current on-line issue of the Harvard Education Letter. One is a single-minded focus on simple targets, with a suppression of the impulse to "cover" everything. Two is strong leadership that builds teamwork among staff. Three is encouraging teachers and administrators to discuss learning and teaching. Four is getting to know children as individual learners, not as embers of "low-performing groups". Five is the regular assessment of children and teachers. And six is getting pupils to review and revise their work.

This process shows that success depends on effort more than natural ability and that pupils really can control the quality of their work. "Successful school reform efforts share common features" by Andreae Downs is at:

www.edletter.orgcurrent

Readers can email suggestions on future Internet Insights to Sam Saunders at J.P.Saunders@leeds.ac.uk

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