Turn that frown upside down

Education reformers should be happy campers, writes Jay P. Greene in We won! Instead, Rick Hess and Mike Petrilli are gloomy and Liam Julian fears the new crop of naive reformers are doomed to fail,

Let’s review.  It is now commonly accepted among mainstream elites — from Oprah to Matt Lauer to Arne Duncan — that simply pouring more money into the public school system will not produce the results we want.  It is now commonly accepted that the teacher unions have been a significant barrier to school improvement by protecting ineffective teachers and opposing meaningful reforms. It is now commonly accepted that parents should have a say in where their children go to school and this choice will push traditional public schools to improve. It is now commonly accepted that we have to address the incentives in the school system to recruit, retain, and motivate the best educators.

These reform ideas are “broadly accepted across both parties and across the ideological spectrum,” Greene writes. That’s huge. “Our ideas for school reform are now the ones that elites and politicians are considering and they have soundly rejected the old ideas of more money, more money, and more money.”

Winning the war of ideas doesn’t mean winning the policy war, of course.

As I’ve written before, the teacher unions are becoming like the tobacco industry.  No one accepts their primary claims anymore, but that doesn’t mean they don’t continue to be powerful and that people don’t continue to smoke.

The unions will try to block, dilute or co-opt the design and implementation of reforms, Greene writes. “But for a moment can’t we just bask in the glow of our intellectual victory — even if our allies are a new crop of naive reformers?”

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  1. I don’t think it’s commonly accepted that the achievement gap is caused by bad teachers. We waste money on bad teachers, but I doubt we’d see a real change in the achievement gap.

  2. Homeschooling Granny says:

    When will it be commonly accepted that we need (1) rich content and (2) parents who send their kids to school ready to learn?

  3. I agree with most of these things that are “commonly accepted” but I don’t know if it is commonly accepted that “parents should have a say in where their children go to school and this choice will push traditional public schools to improve.” School Choice refers to a variety of changes in school policy, all of which pull different levels of support from the public. I do think it is commonly accepted that this will cause some schools to improve and others to get worse. Most of the policies boosting school choice will also lead to children being left behind, which seems not to be the goal of public eduction these days.

    It’s also understandable from the parents’ perspective, however, to want to choose where one’s own child attends school.

  4. The number one factor that determines a school’s success is not teacher quality, strength of the union, school spending, but instead the culture of the community (which is often, but not always, associated with socio-economic status). Community culture is the keystone that supports all the other factors. Without a strong sense of responsibility and accountability in the community as a whole, the school will be determined to fail.
    Note that I did not say school culture… while educators can make some headway against a negative community culture in the building, it is a band-aid against the corruption that constantly seeks to sneak into the school.
    Until people wake up and realize that we need to hold more than just schools and students accountable, the decline in our education system will continue. We need not reform people, but a revolution.

  5. Reformers may have won the PR war, but that’s likely to be a pyrrhic victory.

    Let’s review: A blockbuster documentary movie implies charters are a silver bullet and neglects to mention the heaps of evidence that most charters are disappointing to say the least–and that the good ones are awfully difficult to replicate. Performance pay is gaining broad national support despite mounting evidence that it won’t do much good and may even do harm. A consensus is building that unions are the primary barrier between poor children and success, despite the fact that students in right to work states do no better than–in in most cases far worse than–states with strong collective bargaining structures. And, finally, a movement born out of innovative ideas and a passion for helping poor children has ossified into a political juggernaut many of whose prime members seem perfectly untroubled by their growing intellectual dishonesty.

    That’s hardly a victory.

    History teaches us about such movements. They begin with exciting if untested ideas, real grievances (no, the unions are not without guilt), and sincere passion. They then gather political steam, establish new pathways to power, attract the politically ambitious, discourage even reasonable dissent, promote hype, lose their intellectual integrity, and eventually topple under the weight of all their unfulfilled promises.

    Rick Hess deserves praise for holding on to his integrity while so many others are happy to play this appalling PR game.

  6. CarolineSF says:

    Great post, Karol.


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