Ed Reformers Are Going to Discuss Their Failures
It seems that the ed reform message is once again shifting.
Years ago, around 2013, I first heard the ed reform message shift in regard to the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans. RSD was supposed to be revolutionary. In 2013, I first heard RSD “mother,” former La. state ed board member Leslie Jacobs, defend RSD as “improving.”
Improvement in and of itself is good. However, this ed reform “improvement” message followed years of damning locally-run New Orleans schools and boasting about amazing changes to come.
In short, the “improvement” narrative was face-saving, post-boast backpedaling.
The next major ed reform backpedal I heard came in 2014, and it concerned what was supposed to be the (again) revolution that was the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
The backpedal narrative in this case was one of “faulty implementation.”
Now, via the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the latest ed reform shift is for ed reformers to “fail better.” From the AEI article, written by Michael McShane:
Policy ideas like charter schools, teacher evaluation and high standards first exist in the abstract. When they are actually implemented, they look quite different from state to state or district to district. What one state calls “charter schooling” might look different from charter schooling in another state. So if charter schools struggle in one state, it isn’t necessarily an indictment on the idea as a whole….Opponents (who were against the policy before any data were available) come out and tut-tut at advocates, telling them to “follow the data” or not to “cling to ideology.” Advocates circle the wagons. They spin the findings or pettifog the implications. They counter with personal stories or impugn the motives of critics. Rinse and repeat. (By the way, much of this is covered much more in depth than I can manage here in Rick Hess’s great new volume “Letters to a Young Education Reformer.”) …For our part, Jay Greene, chair of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, and I are co-hosting a conference in Kansas City on May 22 where top education researchers are going to talk about failure. Authors will tackle many of the major topics of education policy of the last quarter century: Test-based teacher evaluation, technology in classrooms, teacher preparation, No Child Left Behind and more. But rather than trying to make some kind of global statement about whether or not something like evaluating teachers based on performance or having the federal government intervene in low-performing schools is a “success” or “failure,” authors will dig into specific examples, what went wrong and most importantly, what we can learn from it.
Like so much about ed reform slogans upon first mention, the phrase “fail better” is Ed Reformers Are Going to Discuss Their Failures | deutsch29: