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In schooling, it’s most likely to work as intended when it comes to straightforward directives—like mandating testing or the length of a school year.
Here’s what I mean: Say a governor wants to mandate that all schools offer teacher induction based on a terrific program she’s seen.
Her concern is that if the directive is too flexible, some schools will do it enthusiastically and well, but those she’s most concerned about will not.
And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I say all this as someone who, for many long years, has been labeled a school reformer.
Now, a few reformers will deny that reform has disappointed.
They’ll argue that dozens of new teacher-evaluation systems have delivered, never mind the growing piles of paperwork, dubious scoring systems, or lack of evidence that they’ve led to any changes in how many teachers are deemed effective or in need of improvement. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grants didn’t move test scores or that of time with reformers over the past 25 years, I can confidently report that most will privately concede that much didn’t work out as hoped or as they’d anticipated.
They’ll insist that the conception and rollout of the Common Core State Standards went swimmingly, never mind the politicized mess, half-baked implementation, or fractured testing regime. If you think I’m wrong, that things are working out splendidly and just as advertised, then feel free to skip this article and my recent book, .t’s been three decades since I started substitute teaching for beer money in Waltham, Massachusetts, back in the 1980s.It’s been a quarter century since I stopped teaching high school social studies in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.Unfortunately, the research has found no evidence that any of this worked consistently.Indeed, a recent federal evaluation of the School Improvement Grants program couldn’t unearth any significant effects on learning, no matter how the data were diced.Because, after long experience, I’ve found that the lion’s share of reformers—whatever they get right or wrong—are passionate and sincere about wanting to make schools better.But, if we can agree to set aside hyperbolic claims that reform has “worked” and avoid suggesting that missteps are just part of an evil scheme, we can get to the question I want to discuss: Why have good intentions and energetic efforts so often disappointed? On this count, I think I have something useful to share.So, she wants to require schools to assign a mentor to each new teacher.But then she worries that the “problem schools” will treat the mentoring as busywork.So, she also wants to require that mentors meet weekly with their charges and document that they’ve addressed 11 key topics in each session.But this still can’t ensure that mentors will treat their duties as more than box-checking, so she wants to require…You see the problem. Far too often, in fact, policy unfolds like a children’s game of telephone. C., federal officials have a clear vision of what they think a change in guidance on Title I spending should mean.