Once upon a time, centrist school reform had a single, overriding theme: accountability for results. This was apparent in the standards movement, with its focus on delineating clear expectations for all students, the achievement of which was to be measured by rigorous tests and linked to real consequences for adults. And it was apparent in the charter school movement, with its famous trade-off between autonomy and accountability.
This obsession with results was juxtaposed against the then-dominant approach to school management and improvement: holding schools accountable for compliance with rules and regulations, and a never-ending demand for greater inputs of one sort or another.
But frustrated that top-down pressure for higher test scores hasn’t led to profound changes in our schools, and impatient with the plodding pace of improvement, many reformers have opted instead for a new motto: Push for change anywhere, anytime, anyhow—even if that means engaging in the same sort of regulating and rulemaking and program-creating and money-spending that we once abhorred.