The DeHavilland Blog

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Insulated against reform

One of the biggest challenges in public education today is that it’s so insular: there’s a strong line of conventional thinking and acting on most issues, and adherence to the currently accepted approaches has produced not only the public schools we have today, but also the private and charter schools as well.

Last year, people hotly debated whether public schools were better or worse than
private or charter schools based on two reports (and ongoing reinterpretations of those reports). But by and large, we missed the larger point: that no matter who edged out in front, they were all neck and neck – despite the freedom to innovate, charters and private schools took the same model as public schools and generated essentially the same results.

The same thing happened recently with
the new NAEP test results: we saw an increase of one or two points in most areas, and people started instantly debating whether this was the result of NCLB, missing the point that such a small increase is hardly material or sufficient at a time of seismic change.

Why is there so little innovation and real leaps forward in education, when we see it happening in just about every other field? Why is there such strict adherence to certain ways of doing things? Is it the inevitable result of government management? Is it the near-monopoly status of public education? Is it the near-monopoly status of teacher certification and induction by colleges of education?

And how can we shake things up to align public education with the needs of contemporary society?

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