Changing the Discussion on Education Reform

Now that ESSA is a reality, the question is whether politicians will stop debating about the old issues like federal versus state control and focus on factors to improve student outcomes. One group, Third Way, has published an article analyzing topics like charter schools, teacher evaluations, and testing and positing how in order to move forward, education community members must lay to rest old conversations. The authors argue that because the classroom of 2016 is so different from even a few years ago, ed reformers should move on and embrace the new reality; otherwise, education will stagnate.

“Warriors on both sides of the most divisive education fights continue to ignore a new set of facts on the ground,” state the authors. “Like right-wing forces who continue to fight a Pyrrhic battle against Common Core despite the fact that nearly every state is already using those standards or has replaced them with ones that are mirror images in all but name, some on the left have fixated on fights that they have already lost. By doing so, they risk making themselves irrelevant in the most pressing debates of 2016—and self-described “reformers” who focus solely on pushing back against these outdated arguments risk the same fate.”

Tackling the most common topics of education reform, the paper posits possible productive conversations including:

  • Charter schools – instead of “Should charter schools exist?” reformers should ask “How can we make sure charter schools are best serving students?”
  • Teacher evaluations – instead of “Should teacher evaluations be linked to student test scores?” ask “How can we best use data to support teachers and provide all students with effective teachers?”
  • Testing – instead of “Should we require students to take standardized tests?” ask “How can we make sure that the tests we have are strong measures of student learning, especially for high need students?”
  • Teacher tenure – instead of “Should seniority be the sole factor in personnel decisions?” ask “How can we reshape the profession to give teachers more autonomy, greater responsibility, and better pay?”

Read on at “The New Normal in K-12 Education,” by Tamara Hiler and Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, Third Way (February 22, 2016)

At the 2016 Content in Context (CIC) conference the session Power to the States – What’s Next after ESSA? will take a closer look at education reform and what might happen now that states have greater control over education.

Education Policy