The education reform movement is stumbling to a halt, and needs its own version of back to basics.
The education reform debate as we have known it for a generation is creaking to a halt. No new way of thinking has emerged to displace those that have preoccupied reformers for a quarter century, but the defining ideas of our current wave of reform (standards, testing, and choice), and the conceptual framework built around them, are clearly outliving their usefulness.
Those ideas are not misguided. Rather, they are just not powerful enough to force the rusty infrastructure of American primary and secondary education to undergo meaningful change. They have failed at bringing about the reformers’ most important goal: dramatically improved student achievement.
The next wave of education policy will therefore need to direct itself toward even more fundamental questions, challenging long-held assumptions about how education is managed, funded, designed, and overseen. The exact shape of this next generation of education policy is still far from clear. It is not too soon, however, to think about how we have arrived at this point and to draw lessons from what has and has not worked.