To The Editor:
In the Jan. 17 article “How Much Reform Is Too Much? Teachers Weigh In,” —the opening statement that “change is hard, particularly for teachers” puts the blame on teachers again by suggesting that teachers are somehow unable to adapt to progress. This attitude is at the heart of why our schools have not improved or moved in a positive direction since the Sputnik era.
For five decades, we have designed a multitude of new improvement cures, with a recent focus on “fixing” (mostly female) teachers who just can’t cut it. Yet, teachers are eager to change when “cures” are based on proven research and promote successful learning for all students with a variety of needs, such as learning difficulties, mental-health issues, and poverty.
School communities must address reasonable class size and the number of students a teacher teaches in a day. Appropriate teaching tools and materials, adequate facilities, student mental-health support, family social-work support, and improved school nutrition go a lot further than another round of testing, report cards, and another politicized round of national reforms.
The only successful school improvements happen at the school site and in every teacher’s classroom. In the article, 68 percent of teachers report that new reforms or changes aren’t really new, that “they’ve all been tried before.” Why do we keep promoting “reforms” that do not work? Because these initiatives are not reforms. They are political movements created by politicians and lobbyists who use notions of change that are not research based.
Education improvements must focus on the needs of the school, principal, teachers, and students. Magical government fixes do not exist. After a half-century of inadequate attempts to improve, you would think that by now we could dramatically shift our focus and support to where the true work is completed every day: in the schoolhouse.
David R. Tobergte
Senior Teaching Professor of Educational Administration
Teaching Professor of Educational Administration
Xavier University Cincinnati, Ohio
A version of this article appeared in the April 11, 2018 edition of Education Week as There Is No Silver-Bullet ‘Reform’