The fantasies driving school reform: A primer for education graduates

This is an excerpt from the commencement speech that Richard Rothstein, a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, gave this past weekend at the Loyola University Chicago School of Education.

“Policymakers, with a preconception that schools must be failing because the public sector and its employees must be corrupt, are not interested in these facts. As a result, we’ve wasted 15 years avoiding incremental improvement, and instead trying to upend a reasonably successful school system.

Of course, not all teachers are competent; some have unacceptably low expectations, some should improve, and others shouldn’t be in the classroom at all. But the data show this is not the most serious problem we face.

Instead of searching for systemic failure where it does not exist, we should have been trying to figure out what we have been doing right, so we can do more of it. That will be one of your challenges, and you will have to do it with little support from elite opinion.

The biggest challenge now facing public education is our fiscal crisis. But it is hard to imagine how you, as educators, can urge the public to provide more money to schools if you fail to challenge, as vociferously as you can, the false charge that schools are failing. Why should the public increase support for a failing institution? If you believe public education deserves greater support, as I do, you will have to boast about your accomplishments, because voters are more likely to aid a successful institution than a collapsing one.

Because education has become so politicized, with policy made by those with preconceptions of failure and little understanding of the educational process, you are entering a field that has become obsessed with evaluating only results that are easy to measure, rather than those that are most important. But as Albert Einstein once said, not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.

Of course, teaching basic reading and math skills is important, but when policy holds you accountable only for student scores in these skills, it ignores what generations of Americans have known are less-easy-to-measure, but equally important educational goals — citizenship, character, appreciation of the arts and music, physical fitness and health, and knowledge of history, the sciences, and literature.

It should not have to be your responsibility to remind the public about the goals of education, but in this environment, it is another task you will have to take on.”

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/the-fantasies-driving-school-reform-a-primer-for-education-graduates/2012/05/13/gIQA5vwzLU_blog.html

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: