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What is a Critical Issue?

A critical issue is an online, multimedia document that synthesizes research on an issue critical to educators working to improve their schools. It sets goals and an action plan for stakeholders who are engaged in a specific school improvement issue. It provides examples of schools that have succeeded in implementing similar action plans on their pathway to school improvement. The Critical Issues are organized in 10 categories.

What are the Critical Issue categories?

  • Assessment
  • At-Risk Students
  • Family and Community
  • Instruction
  • Leadership
  • Literacy
  • Mathematics and Science
  • Policy
  • Professional Development
  • Technology in Education

How is a Critical Issue organized?

ISSUE: Defines the issue to be explored or the problem to be solved.

OVERVIEW: Reviews literature and addresses the issue in more detail to explore feasible approaches to the issue or solutions to the problem

GOALS: Sets objectives to be achieved as educators address the issue.

ACTION OPTIONS: Offers specific steps that can be taken by members of the school community to achieve listed goals.

IMPLEMENTATION PITFALLS: States problems that could arise when schools are establishing goals and taking action.

DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW: Provides alternative viewpoints from the education community.

ILLUSTRATIVE CASES: Presents examples of real schools that have had success in implementing strategies proposed in the Critical Issue.

CONTACTS: Lists complete contact information of schools, organizations, and individuals who can provide further consultation regarding the Critical Issue.

REFERENCES: Complete reference listing following American Psychological Association (APA) style.

LINKS: Throughout the Critical Issue, related Internet links provide definitions, further information and other Internet resources.

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

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