As test-driven, competition-driven school reform gets closer to scrap heap of history (at least in terms of improving schools), we will see more great journalists, such as Dana Goldstein, Dale Russakoff, Nikole Hannah-Jones, and Paul Tough document its failures. We can expect more analyses where the contemporary reform movement’s defeats are cited, and the writer says that we have learned a lot more about cognitive science, teaching, and learning since accountability-driven reformers sought to scale up school improvement. It is not worth quibbling over such diplomatic statements. For the record, however, we now know much more about the reasons why output-driven, market-driven reform was a mistake, but that is only part of the story.
Long before corporate reformers began their technocratic quest, a huge body of social science explained why their top-down movement was unlikely to improve actual schools. One of the great things aboutLearning from the Federal Market-based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), edited by William Mathis and Tina Trujillo, is that it reviews that research as it also provides new understandings of why the test, sort, reward, and punish school of reform failed, and why it did so in such a predictable manner. Unfortunately, it also explains why the educational failure of corporate school reform might continue along with more short-term, political victories for market-driven, competition-driven policies.
Venture philanthropists at the Gates, Broad, and Walton foundations, and other members of the Billionaires Boys Club have made an incredible mess, but the problem isn’t inherent in education philanthropy. The Forward of Learning from the Federal Market-based Reforms is written by Jeannie Oakes, the former Director of Education and Scholarship of the Ford Foundation. She observes, “We have a long history of ignoring research when it is out of synch with ideology, parochial interests, or other preconceptions.” Oakes explains, “Researchers over the past 40 years have produced and replicated an enormous body of theory and evidence that explains the causes and consequences of educational inequality.”
Sadly, the contemporary reform movement sought shortcuts for battling poverty. It abandoned our “vision of a richer common good,” and replaced it with “market-based, test-driven reforms [that] have only reinforced Rich Reformers Reject Research - Living in Dialogue: