Thursday, November 17, 2011

How We Ended Up With "Mayoral Academies," and Other Messes

Frederick Hess:

By turning school reform into a moral crusade, in which one either is, to quote our last President, "with us or against us," would-be reformers wind up planting their flag atop all kinds of half-baked or ill-conceived proposals. They also make it ridiculously hard for even their allies to help, because they are quick to dismiss criticism as evidence of disloyalty. Would-be reformers insist that overshooting the mark with half-baked proposals is actually a strategy, because that's how they'll cow the unions and change the culture of schooling. Indeed, they think concerns about program design are quaint evidence of naivete.

I'll just say this: If reformers think it's a winning strategy to push awkwardly constructed, ill-designed programs that are going to create entirely foreseeable problems, then I'd encourage them to check out the history of NCLB, in which well-intentioned advocates have managed to alienate sympathetic voters and tarnish sensible ideas. The problem is that the impassioned good intentions of today's reformers brook no delay and countenance no nuance. That may be a not-bad strategy for building an effective non-profit or for-profit firm, but it's a flawed strategy for overhauling policies governing the sprawling, complex ecosystem that is American education.

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