Reformers turn into compliance police

Education reformers used to push for holding schools accountable for results, writes Mike Petrilli on Flypaper. Now many reformers, desperate for change, have become compliance cops, “engaging in the same sort of regulating and rulemaking and program-creating and money-spending  that we once abhorred.”

As I wrote yesterday, for example, Race to the Top wasn’t satisfied with rewarding states that already had a track record of boosting student learning. Instead, it lavished money on those jurisdictions willing to pledge themselves to a set of prescriptive reforms that reflected the regnant progressive orthodoxy, circa 2009. Its focus was on rules, process, promises, and money.

To correct for meaningless teacher evaluations “reformers push for rigorous sheep-from-goats evaluation systems that take student learning into account.” But they’re pushing for change at the state level. Districts hire and evaluate teachers.

How do you make sure that districts, and principals, actually use the new evaluation instruments that the state develops? That they truly differentiate among teachers, and take action accordingly? There’s only one way to be sure: we’d better have a strategy to enforce compliance.

Tom Carroll, a charter leader in New York, urged charter schools to turn down Race to the Top money because it came with dictates on how to evaluate and pay teachers.

“The true test of one’s character isn’t how one handles adversity, but how one handles power,” Petrillii concludes. Now that school reformers have some power, what will they do?

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