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THOMPSON: Real Standards

Slowdown 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


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Thank you for the reference to Payne's work. Reformers who push for premature and over-hasty implementation of their ideas may kill the reforms they hope to advance.

This definitely didn't happen in Oakland, and is the exact opposite philosophy held by the current crop of billionaire-funded reformers who firmly believe that applying a rapid, disruptive force to a "politics-free" zone is the way to go.

The Broad-trained administrators put in charge by the state (in Oakland), and Rhee and Klein, under mayoral control, perfectly fit the bill. It's easier to force things through without having a set of democratically-elected school board members to get in the way.

John and Alexander: In all the accounts of education reform news coverage you have read, has it ever been reported that any of the reformers (Duncan, et al) have ever allowed themselves to be fully exposed to Payne's work, or have spent any time considering or discussing it? Or do they just dismiss it?

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they are isolating themselves from what Payne says because it doesn't jive with their Harvard Business School, etc., approach. Payne's work just presents too much common sense.

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