"We -- meaning many US K-12 educational bloggers -- tend to do a lousy job of differentiating between various schemes and strategies for school or educational reform. We just sort of wave our hands a vague morass of undifferentiated correct-sounding happy talk. Rarely do we try to determine which of these things have more or less value than any other. In that sense, we haven't even started a conversationout of context because I'm ignorant about UbD, superficial about Bloom and Miguel writes far too much for me to keep up
- Compare and Contrast"
But I wanted to say something about school reform and how it is framed
People have been talking about radical school reform for a hundred years (Dewey, Holt, Illich, Papert etc.) but it never happens in a way that scales significantly
Now we have a new radical school reform movement (web2.0) with bloggers becoming frustrated that it's not scaling and whinging about it - why don't other teachers follow my example and do what I do?
Well, this is because the cutting edge doesn't scale because it is the cutting edge. If it did scale then it wouldn't be the cutting edge. Often people are more advanced than others and they don't realise that because it just seems obvious to them because they "get it". At any rate, many teachers shut the door and teach and don't talk or think about epistemology at recess, lunch or after school as they sit in their "teachers cupboard" (a teacher once told me that when she was in Primary school she thought that after school teachers didn't go home but sat in their teachers cupboard)
eg. my favourite, Papert's constructionism, didn't scale not because it didn't work but because it demanded far too much from the average teacher
The only things that scale in education are those that follow the KISS principle
I've recently discovered Teach for America and would like to find out more about it because it does seem to be scaling, making a real difference in quality and is simple enough to qualify for the KISS principle
I've ordered this book to learn more:
One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph of Teach for America and What I Learned Along the Way by Wendy Kopp
This scheme claims to be succeeding in mobilising large numbers of high quality teacher learners, in cutting bureaucratic red tape (5 week teacher training course), targeting the disadvantaged and appealing to the powerful sentiment of "making a difference"
In the context of a hundred years of failed radical school reform, this sounds like a miracle
"What I have learned in building Teach For America and from our corps members and alumni suggests that it will take three things to raise achievement levels in low-income schools.The Teach for Australia plan, based partly on Teach for America maybe our best shot to improve education
First, it will take committing ourselves to the vision that one day, all children in our nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education...
Second, we must recognize that accomplishing our mission will take more of just about everything - including more time and, ultimately, more resources...There's an understandable discomfort with the idea that it will take more money to make schools in low-income areas work. We've all seen and read about too many examples of wasted resources in schools. In some cases merely reallocating the resources already spent in low-income areas can make a difference. And I learned through my experience with Teach for America that money isn't everything, that tough financial situations force high-quality, innovative thinking. But I've also learned that although resources are not the solution to everything, they are necessary to carry out the big plans...
The third aspect of realizing our vision is the recognition that it will take a long-term, institution-building approach...when people think about what makes great organizations work, they see it's not a unique strategy. It's that the organizations have built the systems to achieve results, respond to change, and continually improve...Building effective school systems will not be easy. It will take superior leadership and a lot of hard work. It will require a critical look at all the forces - from how school boards govern to how states regulate - that could prevent school district leadership from taking any an institution-building approach. The good news is that there's no mystery about what it will take. The solutions are within our reach.
- Wendy Kopp, from this amazon reader review"