Putting Education Reform To The Test

Can School Reform Move Too Fast?

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Former D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee and Gov. Rick Scott tour a charter school in January.

Washington Post education blogger Valerie Strauss looks at the legacy of former Washington D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee and concludes that Rhee left something behind in a rush to overhaul that city’s schools.

While Rhee was pushing a controversial teacher evaluation system that led to hundreds of firing, Strauss writes, she did not address fundamental issues such as constructing a curriculum for D.C. schools.

The lessons of D.C. apply elsewhere, Strauss writes, including Florida’s new requirement that all high school students must take a class online:

This all speaks to the urgency that many modern school reformers value so highly. They say that educators in the past haven’t moved fast enough (and in some cases that is true), and that too many want to maintain the status quo because it works for adults. (I don’t know anybody who likes the status quo but there could be some who do.)

This line of thinking, of course, ignores the reality that some kinds of change are possible only over time, with thought and collaboration. But beyond that, it has given some reformers a self-declared license to experiment in the name of urgency (and, in some cases, a need to save money).

That is a big reason, for example, we are seeing a swift expansion of virtual education — even though nobody knows if it is a good idea for most students.

Hillsborough County schools have asked their local lawmakers for break from new legislation this year as they implement a teacher evaluation and performance pay law passed last year.

Are Florida schools moving too fast? Are school leaders overlooking fundamentals as they try to innovate?


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