School Reforms That Are Persistent and Admired But Marginal (Part 4)

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Every school reform is a solution to a problem. How a problem is identified (e.g., unilaterally, multilaterally) and who does the framing of it (e.g., policymakers, practitioners, parents), of course, matters. The cartoonish superintendent (or elected official) sees the problem in test scores declining the longer students are in school. His solution: allow 3 year-old toddlers to start school.

Poking fun at the screwy logic of this solution to an identifiable and well-known problem is easy to do. What’s harder is to figure out amid the never-ending flood of school reforms past and present, why some are adopted by districts but stayed mired in a protected corner of the system. And other adopted reforms spread to all schools in a district.

District officials are on the look out constantly for reforms that solve problems they face in school governance, organization, curriculum, and instruction. But these niche-based adopted programs (e.g., charters…

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