To the Editor:
Van Schoales’ recent Commentary declared that the education reform movement as we know it is over (“The End of Education Reform,” May 1, 2019). The statement itself gives us a clue as to why he makes this declaration: Neither education in the United States, nor the education reform movement, are monolithic in nature. Both are comprised of many components which are not aligned.
There are a few reasons why reform is so challenging and often fails. First is the weak application of research to practice. Innovation should be based on research that demonstrates improvement. Otherwise, we are simply experimenting on our students. Many of the reform initiatives were big on innovation but had a weak or nonexistent research base.
Second is the weak preparation of teachers, who often don’t know the standards and curricula they are supposed to be working with. Education Week has published articles documenting both dispositions. I don’t think either of these are the fault of teachers. Intensive training and preparation should be “givens” with any new effort.
Lastly, schools operate inside districts—they are not stand-alone entities. Most education reforms did not focus on districts and the organization that is needed to support schools. I have supported local control my entire life, but I am ready to say if states don’t step in with more support, direction, accountability, and money, we will not see the improvements we so desperately need.
Former Calif. Secretary of Education
A version of this article appeared in the June 05, 2019 edition of Education Week as Why Ed. Reform Fails