Details, Details, Details …

Rick Hess has a really smart post about Heather Zavadsky’s new book about what it takes to scale school reform.  Key graf:

“Zavadsky argues that, for all the headlines about Race to the Top, those districts which gain traction tend to excel at blocking and tackling. She dings scattershot efforts to break large high schools into smaller communities, adopt performance bonuses for teachers, or push algebra down into earlier grades–if those efforts are not linked to a coherent curriculum, disciplined professional development, or strategies for teacher recruitment and textbook selection.”

This is symptomatic of the overall un-sexiness of most long-term reform efforts.  Bring up merit pay, expect the cover of Newseek.  Bring up streamlining procurement processes, expect crickets.  But the proverbial devil is in fact in the details, and tackling district systems is critical to sustaining reform.  I was in a meeting with an administrator from a very broken system last year, and a lot of folks in this meeting were discussing a curriculum program that “works” if “implemented with fidelity.”  She just shook her head and said, “Does your fidelity of implementation account for the fact that I won’t be able to get it through procurement and mandate a teacher training until the school year is more than half over?”

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