While one size does not fit all, there are some basic common practices that could reshape education – if we can just find the will to implement them, rather than stick with “the Devil we know”
School reform is one of the most contentious topics in society today. It seems that not a month goes by without some new shocking statistic, political denunciation, or even a feature-length documentary like “Waiting for Superman,” coming out, all calling for immediate and lasting changes to the way Americans educate their children.
And yet, nothing ever really seems to get done. Perhaps because we cannot all seem to agree on what it is that we need to do.
National solutions imposed from the top-down, such as “No Child Left Behind” are based on the belief that there is (or can be) one solution that fits all. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Improving inner city schools is far different from improving suburban schools in middle and upper-class neighborhoods. That, in turn, is different from improving schools in rural or less wealthy districts. Or is it?
At the Tietz Family Foundation, we believe that for us to advance towards our goal of improving schools and education, we should start at the very basics, with the things that educators all agree on, such as:
- Children learn best when they feel safe and connected to their surroundings.
- They do better when they are in charge of their learning (not all would agree that child centered learning is better than teacher centered learning).
- Children learn in different ways. This means they must be taught in different ways.
- It takes time to learn different strategies for teaching children in the same classroom!
- To help teachers implement what we know about teaching and learning today, teacher education and preparation must change.
- And finally, teachers must be supported in their new positions, not challenged and forced to toe the line of past practice.
The biggest challenge facing us is not unique to school reform. It exists in just about every other segment of our society: resistance to change. People like the things that they’ve gotten familiar with, even if those things are no longer relevant, or even functional.
We can no longer afford to remain content with the “Devil we know, rather than the Devil we don’t” when it comes to school reform.
The Tietz Foundation will be writing much more about these issues in the coming months and years. We realize that large and complex problems cannot, and will not, be solved with one simple master stroke. A solution to school reform requires a long-term commitment, and the courage to start small and simple, and to follow up, no matter the frustrations and setbacks.