Ending the Great School Wars
In his Nov. 7 victory speech, President Barack Obama noted Americans' "fierce" differences on "big" issues and urged us to come together around shared goals. First among the goals he hopes will unify us, despite our "noisy and messy" disagreements about how to reach them, is access by children "to the best schools and the best teachers."
There is no escaping the angry debate about K-12 education in the United States, whether in battles over teacher evaluation in Chicago, "rubber rooms" in New York City, parent triggers in California, privatization in Philadelphia, or charter schools and "teaching to the test" almost everywhere. What's missing is a framework for understanding what's actually at issue in the debate.
Filling that gap is the goal of an intensive graduate-level course I teach with talented and public-minded Columbia University, New York University, and Yale University students, many of them former teachers. They have enrolled in business, education, law, and policy schools in search of ideas, skills, and careers in public education reform. My students work in consulting teams that provide affordable design, management, and implementation support to state and local education departments around the country. That work has helped us isolate the issues framing the current debate and identify a powerful family of solutions that offers...
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