Two Tracks of Education Reform

Education policy is one of my key academic interests. I follow what the bloggers, moms, and academics write on this subject. I try to blog about it whenever I'm not distracted by whatever bright, shiny object shows up in my RSS feeder.

Lately, I have been bothered about the vast chasm between middle class education reform and poor people eduction reform. When we talk about urban and poor schools, the issues are administrative continuity, retaining good teachers, and scaling up good programs. For everyone else that's a given. Instead, middle class concerns are about PTA spending, testing, and math curriculum.

This isn't anything new, I suppose. I remember my old adviser made a point of ignoring everything that she considered to be middle class education reform. School governance was her thing, but the object of reform was always urban schools. I don't want to do that. Middle class families have their concerns and issues, and they should be valid, too. I just wish there was a way of joining those tracks together in some way.

3 thoughts on “Two Tracks of Education Reform

  1. I think the apparent discrepancy is caused by the difference between who is doing the worrying in each case. Using your framework, it’s middle class parents who think about PTA, testing, math curriculum, arts, enrichment, etc. Meanwhile, it’s middle class ed folk who do the thinking about administrative continuity, retaining good teachers, and scaling up good programs for poor schools. In the first case, you have parents thinking about what is best for their children, and on the other hand you have ed folk thinking about what is best for other people’s children. Of course they are going to be thinking about very different stuff. By the way, has anyone been doing surveys on what changes poor families would like to see at their kids’ schools?

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  2. Middle class schools worry about administrative continuity and retaining good teachers, too. Back when my daughters were in grade school, our elementary school went through four principals in six years. Parents went ballistic.
    But usually in middle-class schools, these issues don’t arise. Administrators continue. Good teachers stay. Why not? These are good schools to teach in. So we worry about the next most important issues. There’s a sort of Maslovian hierarchy of school needs: when the basics are satisfied, we move to higher order issues.

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  3. Our school has had four principals in 4 years. I don’t know if the current principal will stay. It’s a middle class school, but the lack of administrative continuity takes a toll. I have not sensed a great deal of parental concern. I think there’s a great deal of parental faith that a middle-class school, with high property taxes and test scores, can’t be bad.
    I am not convinced that PTA spending helps. In this district it supports frills–technology and foreign language. I do value foreign language instruction, however they can’t sponsor enough classroom time for the children to make progress. Technology could be great, if it were used in a rational manner. It’s no use to possess the machines. You need a plan to use them.

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