Bruno: Underhwelmed By Union City Turnaround Story
Maybe I'm too jaded, but David Kirp's weekend column about the successful turnaround of Union City schools that everyone else found so inspiring left me underwhelmed. necdotes like Kirp's are plentiful in education, but it's usually unclear what lessons we should take from them and this story is no exception.
For one thing, many of the descriptions of Union City's secrets are so unclear as to be meaningless. Kirp's recommendation that the "line vanishes" between "cognitive and noncognitive, thinking and feeling" in schools sounds vaguely pleasant, for example, but doesn't amount to much as education reform policy.
Nor is it clear how "strong leadership" helps to bring about what sound like genuinely impressive school improvements.
Even the more concrete examples of reform fail to illuminate the secrets to Union City's success. Lots of schools and administrators attempt to set clear expectations at the start of the school year and develop cultures of respect and interdependence and many teachers look for "teachable moments" during the day. These practices are mostly unremarkable, and yet they are also the practices to which Kirp attributes many of the schools' remarkable results.