Fix Schools by Not Fixing Schools advises Jay P. Greene. Instead of trying to reform traditional public schools, go around them.
We can expand access to other educational options, including charter schools, voucher schools, tax-credit schools. ESAs, digital schooling, home-schooling, and hybrid schools. We can also expand access to enriching non-school activities, like museums, theaters, historical sites, summer camps, and after-school programs. Reformers should concentrate their energy on all of these non-traditional-school efforts and stop trying so hard to fix traditional public schools.
Traditional public schools don’t want to be fixed, writes Greene.
The people who make their living off of those schools have reasons for wanting schools to be as they are and have enormous political resources to fend off efforts to fundamentally change things. Trying to impose reforms like merit pay, centralized systems of teacher evaluation, new standards, new curriculum, new pedagogy, etc… on unwilling schools is largely a futile exercise. They have the political resources to block, dilute, or co-opt these efforts in most instances.
“Second, attempting to impose reforms on traditional public schools requires a significant increase in centralized political control,” Greene writes. When traditionalists subvert “most reforms through poor implementation,” the centralization remains.
Centralized reforms that can be adopted and implemented have to be watered-down enough to gain broad support for passage and implementation, rendering them mostly impotent.
. . . even if by some miracle an effective and appropriate centralized reform with bite is adopted and properly implemented, there is no natural political constituency to preserve the integrity of that reform over time.
Traditional public schools don’t resist the creation of alternatives “with the same ferocity that they oppose reforms that directly effect their daily working life,” Greene writes. Creating alternatives doesn’t require centralization or pleasing everyone. Successful alternatives build their own constituency.