January 2009 Your Turn

We have a winner in our November Your Turn poll --  in which we asked, “Why does school reform fail?” --  and it is that oft-ignored, purposefully vague, but not-to-be-underestimated Answer D:

“None of the above.”

Almost half of you (45 percent) picked that answer. However, if there had been an Answer E (“All of the above --  and much, much more.”), it might have given D a run for its money. Because, truth is, school reform is a tremendously complicated endeavor, and it’s hard to put a finger on just what it is that can make it go right, or terribly wrong.

Iowa board member Steve Rose said it has to do with the institutional nature of schools themselves.

“School reform is so problematic because it does not honestly face the fact that schools are the most organic, messy organizations and functioning systems devised by humans,” Rose said. “When a school becomes dysfunctional, it’s like a human being becoming dysfunctional. The dysfunction plays out in multiple and unexpected ways --  a worrier becoming insomniac, that lack of sleep then impacting memory, lack of memory impacting decision-making, that lack of strong decision-making impacting the trust other folks give her, that lack of trust leading her to worry more.

“We go after sick schools with clubs and guns, not with coaching and concern.”

For the record, 23 percent of you said school reform fails “because the reforms weren’t adequately implemented,” 18 percent said it’s “because the chosen reform did not address the problem,” and another 18 percent said it was due to “inconsistent leadership.”

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