Why Have Past School Reforms Failed?
like the more money we spend on K-12 education, the worse the schools get. With
all these efforts at reforms over the past few decades, how come we don't have
the schools we want yet?
Over the past 30 years, we've gone through the reforms
prompted by the big report, "A Nation at Risk." We've had sweeping federal
interventions, starting with America 2000, then Goals 2000, and now No Child
Left Behind. We've spent an unbelievable amount of money through continuous
updates of LBJ's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Head Start, the
special education laws, and much more.
But you're right. The bottom line: is anybody happy with
these "reforms"? Doesn't seem like it.
Our government has spent beaucoup bucks trying to reform
our schools. Educators are laboring under an avalanche of "research" telling
them what to do - so much that it's hard to keep up with the fads. Teachers,
parents, taxpayers, state and local policymakers, elected officials, academics,
and all kinds of government professionals on the federal level have tried to
change things for the better. Some of the best and brightest of our business
and community leaders have devoted countless hours and money to the cause. They
all echo your question: how come so little of what we try seems to work?
of the problem, according to a lot of deep thinkers who've tackled this issue,
is that we forgot one thing: the KISS Rule. As in: "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
been throwing money and staff training and "programs" at our educational
problems and adding all kinds of staff and technology, when the answer is
really very simple and extremely cheap:
the basics . . . and use traditional principles of what a school is.
educators such as the late Jeanne Chall of the Harvard Graduate School of
Education have tried to explain how the research really does show that
old-fashioned, tried-and-true, content-based, teacher-led learning helps kids
do the best in everything: basic skills, higher-order thinking skills, and
instead, because it is fashionable, there's "groupthink" and a headlock on the
opposite philosophy - "child-centered education" and "progressivism" - with a
much weaker curriculum, much less power and say-so for teachers, much easier
textbooks, bedlam in the classrooms and halls, and demonstrably lower academic
achievement, especially for disadvantaged students, who desperately need the
structure and order of content-based, teacher-led education . . . but are being
denied it by the educational establishment, which controls teacher training and
licensure, and has its head in the sand in a big way about the need to go back
to what works, which is traditional schooling.
Two books sum this up beautifully: A
Century of Failed School Reforms by Diane Ravitch, and Jeanne Chall's The Academic Achievement Challenge.
Here's a long read, but a helpful one to take you through the various fads of
progressive education and how each one has hurt schooling: