Prof. Long: Three major education reform models

Professor Long discussed the following three general schools of thought in the current education reform world.

The conservative reform movement attributes the achievement gap to

  • family/student culture (that is, community culture is oppositional to education; victim-blaming, culture of poverty explanation)
  • bad teachers (that is, the system enables bad teaching and prevents firing bad teachers; see the Lemon Dance segment of Waiting for Superman)
  • slow or ineffective school bureaucracy (that is, schools are bad because they dont allow excellent principals the autonomy to thrive, so the barrier to high achievement is bloated school bureaucracy, see this book by E.D. Hirsch)
  • teachers unions
  • time in school (that is, success requires more hours and days spent in school; A Nation At Risk in 1983 recommended increased time in school)
  • wasting of funds
  • lack of back-to-basics ed (i.e. phonics, etc.; note – theorists like Abigail Thernstrom and Stephan Thernstrom, whose book No Excuses we recently read in Long’s Sociology of Education, advocate for standardized tests via a “back-to-basics” argument)
  • solutions: school choice, rigorous and uniform standards, accountability
  • examples of conservative reforms: NCLB, standardized testing, push or vouchers

The liberal school of thought faults:

  • neighborhood inequality (that is, residential segregation, income inequality, etc; believes that if we don’t address poverty, there’s only so much a reform movement can do)
  • lack of high quality early childhood education
  • poor teacher quality (i.e. lack of professionalization of teaching, low teacher pay)
  • underfunding of schools
  • increasing segregation
  • low expectations/classism/racism in classroom (leads to labeling, self-fulfilling prophecy, tracking)
  • teaching to the test (cited as a lack of authentic education and a symptom of standardized testing)
  • too much back-to-basics education (another symptom of tests: not enough teaching abstract skills, critical thinking and reading, writing, arts)
  • lack of culturally relevant pedagogy
  • solutions: increasing teacher pay, increasing funding for schools, provision of culturally relevant pedagogy, increase progressive education practices, reduce poverty and income inequality

The third movement for reform, the “New democrats”, blame

  • student culture
  • teachers’ unions
  • lack of incentives like merit pay
  • poor early childhood experiences

The New Democrats believe that the responsibility for change rests within schools, advocating new teaching techniques and school choice (charter schools). Examples are Teach for America (Wendy Kopp), Waiting for Superman, Michelle Rhee’s time as superintendent, and reforms advocated by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s