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Thompson: Classroom-Level Reform (There's Still Time)

KathleenKathleen Porter-Magee’s words of wisdom to fellow “reformers” provide a “teachable moment.” Her “Opening the Black Box: Common Core as a Classroom Level Reform” draws the distinction between systemic and classroom reforms. 

Systemic reformers seek to reimagine school systems. They advocate for charter schools, vouchers, portfolio districts, and teacher-evaluation policies. Classroom-level reformers, however, try to actually change what happens in the classroom.

Porter-Magee writes "the classroom is a black box to systemic reformers. While many leaders have made it their business to understand inputs and student achievement outputs, too few have focused their attention of what it takes to drive achievement within the four walls of an American classroom." She then explains why the failure to understand classroom dynamics has prompted systemic reformers to be in too much of a hurry to shake things up.  Paying proper attention to the classroom, however, would force reformers to prioritize.  It would force policy-makers to establish feedbacks loops that use data for instruction, as opposed to systemic accountability.  

Porter-Magee supports Common Core, which she says is  pushing reformers to take classroom-level change more seriously, "but realizing this potential means accepting that, so far, our efforts may be falling short of what the moment requires."

She is correct.  Real world, reformers must decide whether they only care about the exciting challenge of creating new governance systems or whether they want to improve schools.  Had they looked into the black box which is classroom instruction, "reformers" would have known that schools never had a chance of implementing all of their contradictory agendas. Consequently, as districts focused on complying with systemic reformers' demands, the opportunity to improve instruction was put on hold.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.

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Yes, but there's no reason to put this in the past tense. Yes, mainstream reform is seriously off track at present; but this needn't remain true for all time. In spite of all the people who have been hurt by misguided policies and decisions, events like the Garfield teachers' protests in Seattle and numerous efforts to find common ground (for example, the joint statement by the Gates Foundation and AFT yesterday expressing general agreement regarding professional development and teacher appraisal, recent reforms within the Los Angeles teachers' union, and rejection by Los Angeles voters of New York-style corporate reform in our most recent school board elections) provide hope for a sensible middle ground replacing most of our unnecessarily strident and polarizing battles.

We already have RTI firmly established in our elementary and middle schools. It's a wasteland for the students, and the data is starting to catch up with them, since erasergate made it harder to launder the results. You're looking forward to corporate reformers' imposing more of their data-driven change from within our classroom walls, through the miracle of continuous Common Core assessments of our students?

What makes you think for a minute people don't see right through you?

I'm not sure who "you" is, but on the odd chance it's me, I despise most of the data-driven change you cite, and have been actively working to get my son out from under its influence, which fortunately isn't great, yet, in Irvine. Common Core assessments aren't continuous -- they're annual -- but they put pressure on districts to adopt periodic benchmarking against them during the year, and that has had a mostly pernicious effect upon the schools I've seen; so Common Core strikes me as another potentially good idea (a common set of standards across the country, to add continuity in the education of an increasingly mobile country) that has been highjacked and is, so far, being carried out badly.

If "you" was meant to be me, again, someone is looking right through a ghost of her own imagining.

Bruce,
I agree.

Bruce, I'm talking to John Thompson, not to you at all.

You didn't write,
"Porter-Magee supports Common Core, which she says is pushing reformers to take classroom-level change more seriously, "but realizing this potential means accepting that, so far, our efforts may be falling short of what the moment requires."

"She is correct. Real world, reformers must decide whether they only care about the exciting challenge of creating new governance systems or whether they want to improve schools."

John, if you actually mean something different than this sideways call for "reformers" to intervene more decisively inside classrooms, you should say so, very clearly, and very soon. You're enjoying the privilege of a byline, so you should expect to be taken seriously.

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