When school reform gets personal

After two years as a teacher and nearly 20 as a policy wonk, Scott Joftus saw his ideas tested when his two daughters started school, he writes in When Education Reform Gets Personal in Education Next. His “daughters are ready learners who attend a high-functioning school.” But . . . 

As a policy wonk, I believe that student learning flourishes in classrooms that include students with a wide range of abilities and backgrounds. As a father, I want my daughters to appreciate diversity of all types. But I also want them to be surrounded by children who come to school ready and eager to learn. These goals come into conflict when some students are constantly disruptive; the policy wonk must preach patience to the father who wants the class disrupter out.

My daughter’s kindergarten class included a troubled boy who was going through the foster-care placement process. He is exactly the type of child that can benefit most from an excellent education, but he regularly disrupted class. One day, when I was in the classroom, the teacher—talented, but inexperienced—spent more than half of her time trying to keep this boy on task.

The boy’s “disruptions reduced learning time for my daughter, and seemed to steal some of her innocence and excitement about school,” Joftus writes.

The tension between my understanding of good education policy — driven by a deep commitment to equity and the belief that an outstanding education can transform lives, and this country — and what is right for my daughters makes me both a better policy wonk and a better father. The tension also illustrates why school reform is so difficult.

Read it all — and be sure to read the comments.