Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Education, Crisis and a Voice of Reason

With the release of the documentary Waiting for Superman and the administration's "Race to the Top," we've lately been treated to a whole host of articles about education, what works, what doesn't, and who makes that work happen. It's all become too predictable, too familiar. In the new New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann has a Comment that takes it apart. Here's a quote:

It should raise questions when an enormous, complicated realm of life takes on the characteristics of a stock drama. In the current school-reform story, there is a reliable villain, in the form of the teachers’ unions, and a familiar set of heroes, including Geoffrey Canada, of Harlem Children’s Zone; Wendy Kopp, of Teach for America, the Knowledge Is Power Program; and Michele Rhee, the superintendent of schools in Washington, D.C. And there is a clear answer to the problem—charter schools. The details of this story are accurate, but they are fitted together too neatly and are made to imply too much. For example, although most of the specific charter schools one encounters in this narrative are very good, the data do not show that charter schools in general are better than district schools. There are also many school-reform efforts besides charter schools: the one with the best sustained record of producing better-educated children in difficult circumstances, in hundreds of schools over many years, is a rigorously field-tested curriculum called Success for All, but because it’s not part of the story line it goes almost completely unmentioned.

I could quote more, but, really it's worth reading the whole thing. Here's that link again.

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