A great, large school system? One that rates a "5" on a scale of 1 to 5. A "4"? I don't think there is one. Some 3's. Lots of 2's. A depressing number of 1's. But, we are poised to change that. We have the tools at hand. We just need to apply them. How can a system go from a "3" to a "4" or "5"?
First, teachers must be allowed (and have the time) to work in small teams focused on improving student achievement. All teachers. All subjects. All types of achievement. When teachers are engaged in serious, deep, questioning discussions of what their students know and can do and how to help them learn more, schools get better. Every time. Always. The overwhelming, incredible power of effective teaching is key. Small teams focused on student achievement can produce effective teaching. And, the system's resources (Personnel, Continuing Education, principals, etc.) must be focused on supporting teachers in the challenging but rewarding work of improving.
Second, more students must go to work on their studies, and many must work harder. They must engage. And to achieve this, teachers in their teams will design work they can "sell" to students. Work that will cause the students to gain knowledge and skills they, their parents, and the community value. Work they will persist in through difficulties. And work from which they will achieve a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment upon completion.
Third, the people of the community and their leaders must be energetic in their support of schools. But, the horse must come before the cart. Effective teachers and engaged students come first. Then, the community can become more energetic in their support. That support can allow even more effective teaching and student engagement, thus creating a positive, growing cycle.