Peter Greene: Why Top-Down Mandates from Washington Always Fail

Diane Ravitch's blog

Congress and the U.S. Department of Education can take different paths as it dispenses money: It can give school districts money to meet certain defined purposes (e.g., equitable resources) or it can give money for school districts to follow instructions and change what teachers are doing. The latter, as Peter Greene reminds us here, always fails. Policy direction, imposed from above on millions of teachers, must pass through multiple layers of interpretation, reinterpretation, and misinterpretation before it reaches the classroom. By then, it bears little resemblance to what was intended, and what was intended may have been misguided and muddled to begin with.

From Outcome Based Education (remember the 90s?) to Common Core to ESSA to a hundred policy initiatives on the state level, the story is usually the same: Policymakers create a policy for K-12 education, it rolls out into the real world, and before too long those…

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