Don’t slow down

John Thompson’s post on This Week in Education claims that education reform efforts should slow down, that the number of strategies and reforms being discussed and implemented are overwhelming the unions, and that pushing so many reforms at once will negatively impact implementation in the long-run.

Unfortunately, I don’t think we have an option to slow down or to implement piecemeal efforts. Drastic changes must be made, and quickly. Too many students are receiving sub par educations now, today.

Yes, we should ensure that the reforms and strategies align to each other and are well thought-out, but we cannot lessen the pressure. The status quo has prevailed for too long and it’s time to change how things run, how decisions are made, and how the political process influences education.

If Michelle Rhee’s tenure proved one thing it’s that one must press hard and make changes quickly to get anything done in education. Her reforms were abrupt, many strategies were implemented simultaneously, were at times overwhelming, and not all of them worked. But, she managed to make some major improvements for DC’s children without worrying how decisions impacted her popularity, and she demanded that the public, the unions, and teachers look at alternatives. Leading an education system is political, and leaders must make changes when they have the chance.



  1. Thanks for the comment. It gave me a chance to find your blog. My post (from a liberal perspective) might be read as the bookend of Robert Samuelson’s (conservative) article that you reviewed. I have been in failing schools, and at my students’ hospital rooms, funerals, and living rooms. Replying to Smauelson, you used the word “fault” six times in one paragraph.

    When teachers get frustrated, often we also get caught up with finding fault. But it never does any good.

    That frustration, I believe, is the reason why data-DRIVEN accountability (despite investing tens of billions of dollars and burning out educators) has made things worse for poor kids. The blame game isn’t a solution. The toxicity that Rheeocrats pour on teachers only flows down onto students. Students know they have just been turned into test scores.

    We can’t improve student performance without addressing motivation. But to address motivation, we need to treat students like human beings, not pawns in the teacher-bashing game. Whether you want to speed up or slow down, first take a break and ask whether reformers – who obviously began with righteous motives – have given into frustration and become more committed to busting unions and condemning the motives of others than helping kids.

  2. oops! I hope I didn’t imply that you questioned my motives as you disagreed with me. I was referring to the overall “reform” mindest that condemns teachers – especially veteran teachers – as “the status quo.”

    • jcorbett1 said

      Thanks John. I agree that “blaming” the teachers for the failure of public education is definitely not a solution, nor will it help the students. That said, protecting low-performing teachers is what really increases my frustration level. Unions can be good for many different reasons, but 1) teachers should have the opportunity to join the union (or not), and 2) unions must become part of the solution (AFT has at least started to participate in the tough discussions). If acknowledging some teachers are better than others hurts union morale, then it does. If it makes the teaching profession stronger as a whole, even better.

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