School reform in 2017. It’s a big subject about which many people have spoken and commented. The problem is that when you actually read what they wrote, most of them didn’t say a whole lot. It’s difficult at best for teachers and school administrators to admit that they don’t know. It’s okay not to know.
The past 20 years in schools had some very successful changes but most of them were not “reform.” Schools today have more transparency, they have more ways to ensure that every child learns, they offer real options for families and they help the lower income families in ways that they never were before. Still, to many people these successes don’t seem like anything they want to celebrate. They are looking for real “reform.” The problem with that is that were not noting the good that has been done, we’re looking for that big reformation in the state capital that is the equivalent of the Italian Renaissance. That means we’re all fixed for disappointment.
So how is school reform going to take place in 2017? As an old school Hollywood screen writer once put it “Nobody in Hollywood knows anything.” (William Goldman) The point he was trying to make was that for all of our projections, for all of our business jargon, for all of the amazing salaries out there, no one really “knew” anything for certain about how or why movies made money. The same is probably true for school reform. In many cases people are telling you what structure you should follow, which schools are going to be the best models for you to use and how they stack up to other schools. The sad reality is that no one really knows anything at all and they aren’t going to be able to help you to fix anything.
There are no magic pills and there cannot be cookie cutter solutions. What works for an inner city school in Chicago probably isn’t a great solution for a rural school in upstate Maine. The mentality is unique, the outlook is unique and the solutions must also be unique. Anyone who tells you differently probably hasn’t a clue what they are talking about.
School reform lately has been vastly political. It has become grossly fascinated with testifying before the Senate or discussing what the liberal contingent or the conservative group doesn’t know. The reformation groups seem to be more interested in the public relations of it all rather than the honest deliberation of how to help the children that school reform is meant to assist.
What kind of school reform are we going to be seeing in 2017? With the year half over and no significant progress to report, we’ll say what everyone else is thinking but doesn’t want to say. We don’t know and it’s okay to say you don’t know.
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