Monday, October 1, 2012

A Message to The Brookings Institution About School Reform

Warning! Rant Ahead!

Last week I received an email from someone in the PR department of The Brookings Institution. The email asked me promote a forum they were hosting about ways to improve student attainment and achievement in K-12 education. They had invited a lot of politicians, government bureaucrats, and other "expert" school reformers (most of which I hadn't heard of and some whose works I've read and disagreed with). Needless to say, it was not a forum I was interested in promoting let alone spending money to attend (admission wouldn't have cost me anything, but getting there sure would have). So like I do with 99% of unsolicited messages from PR people, I just ignored the email until today when I got a follow-up message.

The follow-up message from The Brookings Institution included highlighted sections that they thought I would be interested in promoting. They wanted me to promote Harnessing Technology to Improve K-12 Education (you can get it as a PDF here). I don't think they thought I had actually read it. I had so I wrote back and shared my thoughts with them. Here's what I wrote...

Thank you for the follow up. I appreciate your efforts to point out things that might be of interest to me and my readers. I have read the work of Chatterji and Jones. Their ideas smack of people who do not truly understand the challenges facing public schools today. They, like many other "experts," are trying to apply a business school model to K-12 schools. Public K-12 schools are not businesses, they are places of learning and learning is not defined by test scores. Good teachers are not defined by test scores either. I will not promote the works of people who think that applying business school, finances trump all, methods will improve schools. Likewise, I am not likely to promote most of the education "reform" efforts of people who have not actually spent time teaching in a public school classroom. If the Brookings Institution believes that they are doing a good thing by promoting these kinds of misguided "reform" efforts, please look for someone else to promote your materials.

Was I too harsh? If you have read the proposal, can you tell me if I am missing something?