Well, we know what doesn’t work …

Andy Rotherham has another great column up at TIME.com.  His columns quickly have become mandatory weekly reading.  This one attempts to temper the notion that reform is a fait accompli, given the incredible amount of media attention.  My favorite part deals with a slightly different issue:

In addition to the cultural and political entrenchment, the process of how funding gets allocated as well as how the various federal, state, and local rules constrain schools leaves surprisingly little room for innovation in education … the reality today is that we know a lot more about what does not work than about what does. For example, it’s clear from abundant research that paying teachers only on the basis of their degrees and years of experience is not in the best interest of students or teachers … Such clarity does not mean, however, that the reforms to fix these problems are obvious.

This is a hugely important point, because both the status quo AND reform get pilloried for their lack of “evidence” or “research.”  It’s a weird catch-22.  We can’t maintain the status quo, because it doesn’t work, but we don’t know what works because it’s hard to have a counterexample to a domestic public sector structural issue.  Doing “what works” is rhetorically obvious, but quite complex from an execution standpoint.  Just because we know how to have some great schools doesn’t mean we have an obvious pathway to ALL great schools.  It would be like saying, “Well, some people lose weight, so we know how to stop obesity.”

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2 Responses to Well, we know what doesn’t work …

  1. School reform will never be a done deal in this country. So what does work? A few things work for some situations and not much for most, or something in between. Like a physician who can’t quite pinpoint the cause of specific symptoms, they do their best through process of elimination, and consultation with other doctors to do what is best.

    Administrators in LEAs are scared to death of the “state officials” with their endless list of checklists. By contrast, the young, “Top Gun” promoters of charters and their glib responses are often perceived as self-serving and disingenuous. So, what does work? Everything may work in small does or nothing, which of course, depends on who you ask. So, what should State and local officials do? Keep trying with different concoctions that work for their particular circumstances. Here’s a good example: “erectile dysfunction drugs could increase the effectiveness of certain chemotherapeutic brain cancer treatments”. Source: http://bit.ly/b6Gkxe

    So, like the researchers at Cedars-Sinai, the practitioners, researchers and consultants of school reform simply have to keep trying and not become consumed with what other people say. Isn’t that the advice we tell our children to “not worry about what other people think of you because of their uniqueness”?

  2. Pingback: Structural Reforms « Meeting the Turnaround Challenge

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