Friday, February 10, 2012

Pop! Goes the School Reform Bubble

How and when the school reform bubble popped—and what happens next.

This from Scholastic Administrator:
Sometime over this past summer, the school reform "bubble" popped--seemingly unable to withstand the combined weight of unrealistic claims, weak results, poor policy choices, and resistance from career educators, along with the inertia of a $600 billion a year K-12 school system. What happens next could be a new, more balanced effort to improve public education-or a return to trench warfare and the status quo.

The current school reform movement has...generally featured a mix of approaches that includes raising academic standards, increasing accountability, and expanding choice. Public and private funding for school improvement efforts have increased enormously since reform began...

Then in the summer of 2011, the bubble popped. Cheating scandals rocked Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., raising questions about the legitimacy of test results and the pressures being put on teachers and administrators. Early reports from Race to the Top and its sister School Improvement Grants program revealed mixed results at best. Diane Ravitch emerged as an unlikely but powerful opponent of reform.

The most optimistic possibility for what happens next is that reformers and their critics come to terms on a balanced agenda of some kind, perhaps in the area of early elementary education.

It's also possible that educators and parents will gain enough momentum and power to start proposing and winning support for their ideas rather than merely blocking those of the reformers. These initiatives would likely focus on providing better social supports for at-risk students and improving the quality of training and support for classroom teachers.

Most likely is some sort of stalemate in which reformers sprinkle in some new ideas (blended learning seems incredibly popular right now) and critics continue to poke holes in their arguments from the sidelines...

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