The Fallacy Of Top-Down Education Reform

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Reposted from Forbes:

Back in 1995 in my state of Oregon the legislature came up with a new educational program that was going to improve test scores and graduate more students. It was called the Educational Act for the 21st century and was widely applauded by the Federal Government, state bureaucrats, educators and parents. The plan spawned a bewildering number of committees, councils, and school debates and devised Certificates of Initial Mastery (CIM) and Certifications of Advanced Mastery (CAM), with all of the necessary curriculum changes, new standards, and tests. It was a classic committee “top down” approach to solve our education problems.

Four years later Oregon’s test scores showed no improvement. 17 years later The Oregonian reported that “Oregon high schools have made zero progress in getting more students to graduate with the skills they need to pass college classes. Today The Oregonian said “act test scores show that half the state’s high school graduates aren’t fully prepared, and are exhibiting poor skills on core subjects. Similar “top down” programs have been tried in all of the states with different names but the same poor results. This includes the Federal program “No Child Left Behind”

All of these efforts were sincere efforts to improve education but they all seemed to assume that if you could invent some kind of magical curriculum for high schools that with discipline, accountability, and perhaps brute force you could pull the children up through some kind of magic filter to higher skills, and have more kids graduate from high schools with fewer dropouts. But it is clear that there is something really wrong with the “top down” magical curriculum approaches.

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