Getting It Wrong on Education

Dana Goldstein points to recent studies indicating that the Obama administration and prominent education reformers who are pushing high-stakes testing and teacher accountability-oriented reforms may have reform all wrong:

Last week the National Academies of Science published a synthesis of 10 years worth of research on 15 American test-based incentive programs, finding they demonstrated few good results and a lot of negative unintended consequences. 

Meanwhile, the National Center on Education and the Economy reported that high-achieving nations have focused on reforming their teacher education and professional development pipelines, not on efforts to measure student "growth" and tie such numbers to individual teachers.

What's so disheartening about education reform right now is that there's little political will or money for the kinds of reforms these studies suggest. And if you think Democrats have it wrong, Republican strategies are similar but worse. Republicans haven't given up on voucher programs, their go-to education-reform policy for decades. With Republican control over state legislatures, 52 bills in 36 states have emerged this year to introduce or expand voucher programs. This year could mark a drastic resurgence of the failed policy. 

In a basic way, however, Obama's approach is commendable where voucher programs are not. At the very least, teacher accountability and testing are attempts to improve the public school system. Conversely, conservatives continually renew efforts to implement voucher programs not because they work but because conservatives would rather circumvent the system than improve it.

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