School reformers ignore student’s home life, asserts Joe Nocera, the New York Times new op-ed columnist. “At its core, the reform movement believes that great teachers and improved teaching methods are all that’s required to improve student performance, so that’s all the reformers focus on.”
Not a safe school community, not strong school leaders, not curriculum, not a longer school day and year, not college aspirations and never parent outreach. (Ninety percent of school improvement plans in Midwest states include a parent involvement initiative.) Silly reformers.
He talks to Joel Klein, New York’s former school chief, who says that “family engagement can matter” but poverty isn’t destiny. We shouldn’t give up on improving schools, Klein says.
“To let us off the hook prematurely seems, to me, to play into the hands of the other side.”
Who’s the other side? Social scientists and teachers’ unions, writes Nocera. He concedes that improving schools is a worthy goal, but warns “school reform won’t fix everything.”
Demonizing teachers for the failures of poor students, and pretending that reforming the schools is all that is needed, as the reformers tend to do, is both misguided and counterproductive.
Is it “demonizing” teachers to say that some are better than others? Are reformers ignoring the problems of poor kids by trying to get more effective teachers in high-poverty schools? Are there school reformers who think school reform is easy and will fix everything? Or maybe they’re trying to improve teachers and teaching (and curriculum, etc.) because they don’t have the power to improve parents.
Ed Next’s Peter Meyer had a similar reaction. School reform won’t fix everything? Gosh! Who knew?