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It is also undeniably true that there are some teachers out there who ought to find work in some other field, either because their commitment to teaching has passed its expiration date or because they were never well-suited to the work to begin with.
Schools that have held the line on class sizes and prioritized the hiring of teachers — few and far between though they may seem to be — have done themselves, and the students they serve, a huge favor.
Maybe it’s the “radically decentralized” nature of public education, to borrow a term from the historian David Labaree, that holds the key to understanding how to improve our schools in the twenty-first century.
Maybe, in other words, we’re going about this all wrong.
Meanwhile, cities contract with private companies to run entire school district, states adopt untested teacher evaluation frameworks whole-hog, and the federal government attaches new strings to desperately needed federal funding without investigating the effectiveness of its preferred approaches first. But what if our system’s greatest strength is the thing that is most often cited as its fatal weakness?
To be sure, we would need to talk about how to do this in ways that don’t compromise equity—we can’t just rely on the cliché of “local control” and expect things to be fair for everyone—and that won’t be an easy task.
One thing’s for sure: top-down education policy-making is a losing proposition in an education system as diverse and vibrant as ours is.
Maybe it’s time to turn the page on failed experiment so we can move on to more fruitful ones.
So many of the changes being proposed today, regardless of where they come from, share a feature in common: the people proposing them see their reforms as silver bullets, and seem like they won’t be satisfied until their ideas are adopted by everyone. That’s easy to forget in this age of top-down education reform.
That’s part of the post below about the problems of top-down education reform, written by Dave Powell, an associate professor of education at Gettysburg College who is also Education Week’s “K-12 Contrarian.” He was a high school social studies for six years in suburban Atlanta, where he earned a certificate from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in 2004. So many of the changes being proposed today, regardless of where they come from, share a feature in common: the people proposing them see their reforms as silver bullets, and seem like they won’t be satisfied until their ideas are adopted by everyone. Proponents of charter schools as a solution to our education problems owe much more to the previous generation’s supporters of vouchers than they usually admit—and though both groups employ the rhetoric of individual empowerment to make the case for their policy preference, it’s hard to overlook the way that large (sometimes for-profit) players have cornered the market on educational choice in some places, even turning entire districts into districts of “choice.” This, of course, begs the question: if everyone is forced to accept a choice, is it still a choice?
8 and the deep depression that followed, I put it down for three days.