District Administration September 2017 - 73

ProfessionalOpinion
There is no silver bullet
for education reform
It's a mistake to assume that all schools face the same challenges
By Patrick Kearney

P

ublic educators find themselves in
something of a Catch-22 situation
these days. When we celebrate
the great things that are going on in our
schools, we are told that we are simply
slaves to the status quo who don't recognize the struggles that our system is facing. When we articulate the challenges
that our schools face, there are those
who are quick to jump on us for making
excuses or to fault us for not abandoning
our current system entirely.
Everyone has an opinion on how to
make our schools better and everyone
thinks change should happen faster than
it does. Those who claim to be education reformers would have you believe
that there is a magic silver bullet that
will transform our schools and instantly
improve student achievement.
The truth is there is no silver bullet.
The honest and complex truth is that
there are incredible things happening in
every school in the country and there are
massive challenges being faced by every
school as well.
Shades of grey
When I began in this profession there
were many things I was sure of, and I
saw the world of education in terms of
right and wrong, and black and white.
Experience has taught me that the
answers to most of our issues in education are found in shades of grey.
Yet, upon reflection, there are three
things that I know for sure:

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There are some
notable billionaires
who seem to feel that
by simply creating
competition for public
schools that learning
will improve. It just
doesn't work that way.
Schools are not a business
There is no doubt that education has
become big business, but our schools are
not businesses meant to turn out a "one
size fits all" product.
In his oft-reprinted article, "The
Blueberry Story: The teacher gives the
businessman a lesson," businessman and
consultant Jamie Vollmer shares his realization that schools do not operate under
the same principles as a for-profit business, nor should they. (Read an excerpt
in the sidebar on page 59.)
There are some notable billionaires
who seem to feel that by simply creating competition for public schools, that
learning will improve.
It just doesn't work that way. If students came to our schools as standardissue, cookie-cutter models for us to
fill with knowledge, it might work, but
that's not how it is.
Students come to our schools in all
types of conditions. The greatness of our
public schools is that we embrace all of
them. Our challenge is to serve all of
them equitably and to be ready to offer

unique opportunities to each of them.
I challenge those who believe our
schools are overfunded to go into their
local school and pick which programs
to eliminate. Are we doing too much
for our special education students? Are
we providing too much technology?
Are there too many opportunities for
students to make music or create art?
Are there too many advanced courses
for our brightest young people? If what
our communities desire is for schools to
produce students who are straight off the
manufacturing line, that would be easy
to do, and it could be done cheaply.
Our communities want schools to
graduate students who are creative, critical thinkers, able to communicate effectively, and know how to collaborate.
Forcing schools to compete to get
better test scores might work, but that
isn't what schools should be about.
Our public schools should be engaging students to prepare them for a rapidly changing 21st century.
Schools don't have to look the same
The problem with the belief that there
is a silver bullet to improve our schools
is that it assumes that all schools face the
same challenges and that our communities all agree on what our schools should
look like. Educators are as guilty of this
as legislators are.
Educators look at the schools we consider great and assume that if we take on
their structure, our schools will immediately show the same results; it doesn't
work like that. Our most successful
schools are products of communities
where the needs of the learners are the
driving force for improvement.
September 2017 73


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration September 2017

District Administration September 2017 - Cover1
District Administration September 2017 - Cover2
District Administration September 2017 - 1
District Administration September 2017 - 2
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