World of education The reform is in the midst of many heated debates. How should we authorize charter schools? Does the push for restorative discipline lead to chaos in classrooms? What should be the federal role in education?
One thread runs through all these discussions, a balance between urgency and discretion.
Urge definitely has its own value. It was no less a politician than Martin Luther King Jr., when coined the phrase “the fierce urgency of now” while speaking at the footsteps of the Lincoln Memorial. When your rights are being violated, or your child is receiving a lewd education, you want to decide one now. Children only get one shot at an education, and it is cheap and insensitive to tell them that they will have to wait to do something better.
But prudence is a lesser virtue. Education is an uncertain process. We have not found the best way to educate children. Different children thrive in different environments. Some require more discipline, some require less. Some are ready for algebra in eighth grade, some need to wait until ninth.
We also do not agree on the objectives of our education system. We talk broadly about things like job readiness, citizenship, socialization, and the like, but as soon as we make a firm decision about it, the comedy also collapses. Just think that the Common Core put an end to all conflicts and it was just the standards of mathematics and language arts.
For these reasons, haste can be a vice. In our good desire to do right by children, we can steam out voices that are offering legitimate criticism. Course correction can be seen as capitulation. Stopping, even for a moment, can be seen as a defeat.
Part of this is inspired by the type of people involved in education reform. If you scroll through the “About Us” pages of education reform organizations, you look up to the bright-eyed, smiling face. They are younger than the average American and if they have a chance to write a few words about why they do so, they honestly describe the teacher who changed their life or the moral they have about the current state of the country Education system is resentful
This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. Any social movement benefits from youth energy. Ethical religiosity helps in the storm of politics. But, we have to be honest about the risks of placing our thumbs on an urgency scale. In short, I will outline three:
Not learning from failures. The urge can create a head-down-damn-torpedo ethos among those who really need to be open to the idea that those things are going wrong. Education is an uncertain process. Teachers know this. You plan a lesson in a certain way, it’s hard, and you regroup and try to do something different. The same thing applies at the school, district, state and federal levels. As long as the policy breaks the path from legislators to teachers, things are lost. A prudent observer accepts this as part and parcel of our patchwork system of educational administration and realizes that modifications will need to be made.
The rubric used to measure teacher performance may not work in every classroom, state standards may be misunderstanding for state universities, maybe some districts within the same state Struggling to recruit good teachers, while others are trying to get rid of bad people. In all cases, advocates will need to be honest that the work they did initially is not working and needs to be changed. (I have recently written about it Hanna Scandera, a former New Mexico Secretary of Education who made several changes to the teacher evaluation program, which was the cornerstone of New Mexico’s reform effort in response to feedback from teachers and field data.)
Destruction of democracy. Perhaps the most dangerous part of the urgency is distrust of democracy. We cannot allow elected officials to decide how much money should be spent on schools, we should use the courts. We cannot allow states to create their own accountability system for schools, the federal government should mandate which form they take. We cannot allow parents to decide which school is best for their child, a central official must ensure that it is “high quality”.
You cannot end democracy. Ultimately, if you want a policy to be genuine, sustainable, for support you have to work hard to convince people that you are right. You may be able to win in the short term with jurisdiction over everything from state homes to state boards and polling places to court rooms, but the next administration or the next court appointed justice just completes everything you do. Can do.
Overvaluing expertise. Those who emphasize that often prefer to debate by closing the debate “well research says X“Or” experts agree X Is a good idea. “Nobody wants to get the crossway of experts, especially in a field like education. But expertise is needed. Research never really says something is a good idea or a bad idea. Research tells us the pros and cons . Here’s how a new reading program affects the affected test score, here’s how much the program costs. Then we have to take that information and ask if the result was worth the cost? How does that intervention lead to other interventions that a school, district, or state can perform? Were there other, unintended consequences? There are quick or easy answers to those questions.
I am particularly interested in exploring this subject because it is a central theme of Jay Green and my new volume. “Failure close. “The book features the work of nine talented academics who talk about misdeeds in education policy and what we can learn from them. It’s a healthy dose of discretion in a world of urgency and we hope that it can be useful in conversations. Can teach how to learn. Improvement in education policy.