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What is the best way to use Pathways to School Improvement?

What is a Critical Issue?


Q: What's the best way to use Pathways to School Improvement?

A: The best way to use Pathways to School Improvement is your way. Pathways offers four options:

  • READ original and timely Critical Issue documents. Pathways currently offers more than 75 Critical Issues, with many more in development. All are rich sources of research, policy, and practice. Each has undergone extensive internal and external review by experts in the field. All feature contacts and additional resources of value. These documents can enhance your learning, stimulate research, and combine with other resources to suit your needs.

  • DIRECT a search tool to investigate North Central Regional Educational Laboratory's rich reservoir of resources and related Web sites on hundreds of educational topics (or click on Pathways' NCREL link to visit our home site).

  • CONNECT to NCREL'S Resource Center.
    If your learning quest requires further customization, visit NCREL's robust Resource Center. Here NCREL's research experts offer real time assistance based on your individual requirements.

Q: What is a "Critical Issue"?

A: "Critical Issue" is a multimedia document that examines a particular issue being tackled by educators engaged in school improvement. Currently, more than 75 Critical Issues are available in the following 10 areas: Assessment, At-risk, Family and Community, Instruction, Leadership, Literacy, Mathematics and Science, Policy, Professional Development, and Technology in Education. For example, under Literacy, you'll find the Critical Issue "Using Technology to Enhance Literacy Instruction," as well as several other Literacy-related Critical Issues.

How are Critical Issue topics selected?

The North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) began online publication of Pathways Critical Issues in 1995. The initial selection of topics was the direct result of extensive surveys of national and regional educational policymakers, administrators, teachers, and researchers to elicit issues of critical interest to those engaged in education.

Topic selection continues to be largely influenced by NCREL research in consultation with education experts in the field. Each year, Pathways selects those research topics deemed timely, relevant, and crucial to school improvement. In addition, Pathways staff gathers data from other issue-scanning tools, such as educational data analysis, a variety of educational publications, university research reviews, national policy and news media, as well as individual suggestions from our online audience of professional educators.

If you'd like to suggest a topic for a future Critical Issue, please contact Pathways via any of the following methods:

Fax: 630-649-6730
Mail: Pathways, North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, 1120 East Diehl Road, Suite 200, Naperville, IL 60563-1486

Critical Issues documents comprise the following ten components:

  1. Issue statement: Defines the problem or issue to be explored.

  2. Overview: Synthesizes research and other information explaining why this issue is a critical one.

  3. Goals: Sets objectives you might establish for your school.

  4. Action Options: Offers steps to help you reach your goals.

  5. Implementation Pitfalls: States problems frequently encountered and how to avoid them.

  6. Different Points of View: Provides alternative views about how to address an issue.

  7. Illustrative Cases: Presents the experiences of real schools.

  8. Contacts: Lists people and agencies willing to advise you.

  9. References: complete reference listing following American Psychological Association style.

  10. Links: related links provide definitions and other Internet resources.

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