Putting Trust Back in Education


Reposted from Talking Points Memo:

U.S. policy — especially education — is dominated by trust in procedures rather than trust in basic human judgment. That is, instead of letting principals hire and fire their own staff, we build enormously complex and contested teacher evaluation systems. Then we build an appeals process on top of those to deal with efforts to dismiss teachers. And beyond that, it leaks into the checks and balances of the courts.

Is it any wonder that teachers feel more like industrial widgets than valued, empowered professionals? For a while, they respond to new reform proposals wearily. But after a while, after innumerable intrusions into their professional sphere, they lash out.

This is no way to run effective organizations, let alone a national education system. Boser’s book is full of examples that offer guidance for how we might start rebuilding social capital in education politics. Consider, Boser’s account of former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s turn of the century domestic reforms: Blair set clear, measurable, specific targets for various government agencies, and then largely let them work out how to reach those. Outside of the charter school movement, that flexibility is unheard of in American education.

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