Be Careful What You Wish For
About a month ago I posted a blog encouraging school leaders to speak up about school reform and take an active rather than passive stance as players in the reform movement. I urged leaders to focus on the several aspects of change. Accountability, for example, is important, but it needs to have a reasonable and specific measure. Districts need time to effect systemic change, I said; real improvement doesn’t happen overnight. In addition, I wanted leaders to set the tone of civil, informed dialogue rather than the political posturing we’ve been subjected to regarding school reform. Finally, I urged leaders to refute some of education’s more vociferous critics who paint everybody with a broad, hairy brush.
Well, it turns out that there is a group of eleven superintendents and state education leaders working
together to influence state and federal education reform. Chiefs for Change (membership by invitation only) touts a “bold, visionary” agenda, which they claim is nonpartisan. However, two of the chiefs were elected to their positions as Republicans, and eight were appointed in states led by Republican governors. Only one, Rhode Island’s Deborah Gist, works for Governor Lincoln Chafee, an Independent who formerly served in the Senate as a Republican. The group is affiliated with The Foundation for Excellence in Education, headed by Jeb Bush. The Chiefs “bold, visionary” agenda includes greater school choice, vouchers, and tying teacher evaluations to test scores.
It isn’t exactly what I was hoping for.
Instead, I long for chief education officers to look at where we’ve been and build on our successes. Remember the Coalition of Essential Schools? Still alive and well with over 600 member schools, schools that believe, for example, that no two schools are alike. The CES Common Principles include the following:
Less is more; depth over coverage.
Goals apply to all students.
Demonstration of mastery.
A tone of decency and trust.
Chiefs for Change “Guiding Principals” are the following:
Achievement-focused teacher and school leadership effectiveness.
Rewarding excellence and replacing failure with success.
High academic standards.
Transparent and rigorous accountability.
Viable options for all students.
See any difference? Here’s my take: the Coalition focuses on how kids learn best. The Chiefs focus on how to regulate adults in schools. Still waiting for Chiefs for Kids.