National Journal Online today asked contributors to its Education Experts Blog for ideas on what 2011 may hold in school reform, since divided government in Washington means "it's likely that any changes on the federal level will be incremental. That means it's up to the folks at the local level--the school boards, the superintendents, and the unions--to turn around the failing schools and lift up the ones languishing in the middle."
Colorado's Bob Schaffer, one of the experts surveyed, posted this response with praise for Centennial Institute's recent policy brief on "Much Better Schools on Much Lower Budgets."
The Best Answers Are Indeed Local
Chairman, Colorado State Board of Education, and former U.S. Congressman
There’s certainly nothing good about a flat economy. There’s even less that’s positive about the precarious actions our federal government has tripped through over the past three years that have made matters worse.
Economic uncertainty, however, should be embraced by school leaders as good enough a reason as any to insist upon structural reforms to improve education systems. Treating teachers like real professionals instead of union workers comes to mind.
So does, applying more market forces to demand quality improvement. It’s always a good time to treat more parents like customers and children like real Americans.
The most pragmatic answers about school improvement are indeed local in nature. Solutions that fail to acknowledge the Constitution’s placement of these matters squarely within the jurisdiction of the states, local communities and ultimately parents, are European-style fads that rarely work very well and never work for long.
Former Commissioner of Education for Colorado, Dr. Bill Moloney recently released an uplifting issue brief suggesting we can achieve “better schools on lower budgets.” Produced for the Denver-based Centennial Institute, Moloney’s paper makes a sobering analysis of situations in Colorado that are similar to those of other states.
In his report (CLICK HERE), he makes a compelling case for questioning contemporary fads that have sidetracked America’s public schools, for discarding many of them and for abandoning academic distractions that tend to divert precious classrooms resources. For example, class-size reduction has shown little beneficial impact, he asserts, certainly not for the money.
Dr. Moloney’s report is worth a read by anyone serious about education policy, reform and management. Attention to what states and school districts can actually do offers the promise of yielding far greater practical results than does the current federal inclination to hurl larger grenades of yet-to-be-printed cash in the general direction of the country’s most serious academic crisis points.
Dr. Moloney is right when he points out, “nothing is beyond our reach, if we care enough.”