THOMPSON: Real Standards
Hopefully, Arne Duncan will listen closely to John Easton, Charles Payne, and others who have studied reform efforts in Chicago (and elsewhere). Payne calls for "Standards of Implementation" or guidelines for minimum prerequisites required for reforms to be successful. Just as teachers tend to be isolated from each other, "reformers are isolated - by ideology, attitude, ... and tribalisms." Just as teachers need learning "Standards," reformers need Standards or a guide as to whether a minimum amount of professional development, follow-up support, on-going assessment, and capacity for addressing disengagement are available. To borrow Payne's analysis of a previous systemic reform, "one need not spend a decade and $130 million dollars to find out that one doesn't have a theory of action connected to the real world."
In 1971, Seymour Sarason explained the failure of reformers to understand schools as social organizations and their cultures. For another 15 years, he kept a file of letters from people who led failed reform efforts and learned "that reformers ‘had vastly underestimated the force of existing power relationships and had vastly overestimated the willingness of school personnel to confront the implication of those relationships.’"
And above all, "when people who have led a reform effort are asked what they would do differently," writes Payne, "perhaps the single most common answer is 'take more time.'" - John Thompson