Blogger, E.D. Kain, has a great commentary today on his Forbes.com blog stating “there are no silver-bullets in education reform.”
School reformers create a seductive narrative for the media and lawmakers alike. Foundations are lured to support radical changes because they promise radical results. It’s much more glamorous, after all, to put money into shiny new charter schools than to give those dollars to school districts. School choice and accountability sound good on paper, and films like The Lottery and Waiting for Superman pull on our heartstrings and paint pictures of selfish teachers lobbying hard against their own students. These films ignore not only the external factors leading to school failure including poverty, lack of funding, and other societal issues they also gloss over the many failed charter schools and choice programs across the country. Advocates of choice and accountability and the modern charter-school movement brush off the wildly varying results found from one charter school to the next. Like traditional public schools, charter schools with a higher percentage of white and Asian students and lower numbers of ESL students and other disadvantaged students fair much better than those with more mixed populations.
Top-down reformers demonize teachers, shut down failing’ schools, and attempt to implement reforms without the input or buy-in of teachers, parents, and the community. This is why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty are no longer serving in Washington, D.C. It’s why Alan Bersin, who publicly fired school administrators and whose tenure saw the highest turnover of teachers and principals in San Diego history, was eventually removed in San Diego. And it’s why Mayor Bloomberg fights so hard to retain total authority over all education decision-making in New York City. Without support from the rank-and-file, school reform is impossible.
American public education is inherently democratic and decentralized, and no amount of dictatorial reform efforts will change that. It’s also about more than simply teaching kids how to take tests in reading and math. We cannot constantly compare American schools to those in other nations American culture is different from Asian culture or Northern European culture. The accountability movement has shifted the focus away from American ingenuity and creativity in favor of strict testing regimes in an attempt to compete with Japan and Finland. This is the wrong approach. As our nation grows in wealth and technology, American public education should be a reflection of these changes. American schools may have been founded along industrial lines, but accountability efforts only entrench this attitude. If anything, we should be looking for ways to make education more creative and diverse, and to make American students more well-rounded and independent. The current reforms achieve just the opposite.
Let us know what you think?