Reforming Education Reform

 In an article in The New York Review of Books, Andrew Delblanco discusses new books by Michelle Rhee and Diane Ravitch, one epitomizing the prevailing education reform movement, the other largely critical of it. Delblanco distills Rhee's book and message thus: (1) Students should compete for test scores and their teachers' approval; (2) teachers should compete for "merit" rewards from their principal; (3) schools should compete for funding within their district; (4) school districts should compete for budgetary allocations within their state; and (5) states should compete for federal funds.

To read Rhee and Ravitch in sequence, Delblanco writes, is like hearing a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch followed by the report of an auditor who discloses mistakes and falsehoods in the accounts of the salesman. Poverty, Ravich says, is central to low academic achievement, and we must work both to improve schools and to reduce poverty, not prioritize one over the other. Tonally, Rhee is incredulous at the stupidity and irresponsibility of those who disagree with her, while Ravitch imputes bad motives and a grand design where there may simply be good intentions but overblown confidence.

Delblanco agrees with Rhee that our schools could use shaking up, and with Ravitch that "the wounds caused by centuries of slavery, segregation, and discrimination cannot be healed by testing, standards, accountability, merit pay, and choice." 

Here at Stag Hunt we think this whole debate has grown a bit tired , and that this glorified management-labor dispute recapitulates the efficiency debates of the 1920's and 30's to an eery degree.  See the canonical Education and the Cult of Efficiency for great detail.

So below we offer our thoughts on how we might get beyond this stale "reform" debate and build a better foundation for public education than this implicit one-size-fits-all paradigm.  We also invite your ideas in our ongoing Socratic Challenge.

H/T LAEP Public Education NewsBlast