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Technical-fix education reforms have failed

I'm in Chicago, and I was pleased to open the Chicago Tribune and read a sensible op-ed by Steve Chapman on education reforms.

Considering reform moves over the past two decades, Chapman finds that "Coming up with solutions for public education, it turns out, is easy. Coming up with solutions that actually work - well, that's another story."  For example, he cites a study by Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that overall "charter students are not faring as well" as public school pupils.

Chapman also notes that liberal ideas of how to improve education have also failed. More money for schools, upgraded facilities, smaller classes, teacher pay raises - where tried, few have brought success. Chapman concludes:

What should we draw from these experiences? Not that nothing works, but that few if any remedies work consistently in different places with different populations. We shouldn't expect that broad, one-size-fits-all changes imposed by the federal government - such as those offered by the Obama administration - will pay off in student performance.

The first step in addressing the issue of educational standards is to recognize that technical fixes, especially those emanating from national government, have not succeeded. Seeking to explain this failure would be a good place to focus attention and debate. As Alex Standish noted here, and I have noted elsewhere on The American Situation (for example here), the real issue is whether the broader society supports knowledge-acquisition and will give motivated teachers the autonomy to teach.

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