We started off the new century with the Texas Miracle, the phenomenal closing of the achievement gap and reduction of dropout rates through a program of high-stakes standardized tests. (The Texas Miracle would then spawn the federal No Child Left Behind Act.) Politicians and media-savvy administrators have also found the miraculous; the governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, referred to an Oakland charter school as an “education miracle.” And the pundits have appropriated the lingo. A recent New York Times column by David Brooks on the charter school of the Harlem Children’s Zone was titled “The Harlem Miracle.” And so it goes.Go read the whole 2 pages.
Upon closer examination, some of these miracles turn out to be suspect, the result of questionable assessments and manipulated numbers. The Texas Miracle didn’t hold up under scrutiny. And some, like the Harlem Children’s Zone—which is a commendable place—gain their excellence through hard work along multiple dimensions, from teaching and mentoring to utilizing outside resources and fundraising. There’s nothing miraculous about their successes.
Along with talk of miracles, we have the belief in educational wonder drugs and magic bullets—single-shot solutions to complicated problems: high-stakes testing, standards, charter schools, small schools, alternative teacher recruitment, slash-and-burn CEO management and so on. Each of these solutions has potential merit. Standards can bring coherence to a curriculum; small schools can result in increased student contact; alternative recruitment and credentialing bring new blood into the teaching force; some districts need the serious administrative shake-up that managerial housecleaning can provide. All good. But for these efforts to work, to increase the quality of education, other factors have to be present as well...
Mike Rose On Education "Miracles": They Still Don't Exist
Mike Rose, a UCLA professor, author and blogger, writes about the reform movement's "miracles" and how they are dumbing down education: