Shaping Education’s Next Chapter: Sandwiches
(Bloomberg) — A decade ago, when teacher unions and school officials clashed over “reform,” it was as if the heads of the two groups kept their heads on separate planets.
In fact, the debate between business-minded reforms and those put forward by education-union officials helped to explain the polarization in K-12 education. As it turns out, the two may have found each other in an unlikely place: schools.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, says that she learned to act on time through the successes of her own education. She is quick to say that “I’m a sh*tty teacher” and has a hard time learning new ways to work with children. But her experience has also taught her what parents and teachers alike can learn to boost student performance.
Randi Weingarten Source: Randi Weingarten
For principals and teachers to put effective pedagogy into practice, Weingarten and other corporate reformers are proposing the combination of new strategies and old methods to make school reform an educational reality.
These programs — such as shorter school days, unified schedules, and more student-centered instruction — are not science projects. And we will never let education be made to fit our reality TV preferences.
They may be new, but we already know that they work. For example, a 2015 study of StudentsFirst, an education-reform group backed by Michelle Rhee, showed that full-day kindergarten improved student success. A trio of studies by Mathematica Policy Research for the Gates Foundation estimated that if every U.S. public school stopped serving breakfast in the classroom, it would save the nation more than $1 billion. The second largest consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, says that the National Center for Bariatric Surgery has saved schools up to $2,100 for each patient it manages.
Teachers need help. That’s why many school leaders and scholars now favor what Weingarten calls the “3 Ws” of the “reform mindset”: Learning, Learning, Learning.
Even Ronald Olson, author of No Child Left Behind: Reformers, Wrongs, and the Revolutionary Reform of America’s Schools, argues for common standards, teacher quality, and school leaders with an “unified vision.” Yet after all the policies and reforms that have taken place, there still isn’t a guarantee that the kids will be learning the way we want them to.
Addressing One Problem at a Time
So how does school reform get help schools advance the way they want to? I’ve put together a five-step approach for charting the course of a new era of school innovation. Each is based on common practices we’ve found in the private sector. Our goal is to offer leaders and teachers a formula that will help them introduce a new way of doing business that will actually lead to better outcomes for students.
Here are the five guidelines:
Focus on one principle at a time. Our long-range goal is to let a school or district decide which elements to replicate.
Pay close attention to the classroom and to the people in it. Teach the lessons by what you do.
Foster diversity. More than 90 percent of schools can’t find enough talent to staff up.
Don’t just look to state or national standards. Teachers and schools will implement strategies and decide which strategies to use that fit their context and their culture.