It might be lights out for the school reform era. Defenders of traditional public schools successfully campaigned to refashion what was once a sincere effort to improve public schooling into something really godawful: a “neoliberal” conspiracy to “privatize” an important “public good” so that the “billionaire’s boys club” can profit from “disaster capitalism.”
The result? School reform’s biggest initiatives are now facing eviction from the public policy menu. This includes charter schools, Federal accountability systems, teacher evaluation, common standards, and student testing.
I know this might worry school reformers, and the back sliding on reforms may be disastrous, but maybe there is a bright side to consider.
Here are five possible upsides of a day without school reform….
5# An end to Achievement Gap Fever (AGF)
For at least 15 years now education leaders have had what union blogger Edushyster lovingly calls “achievement gap fever” (AGF). It’s a condition characterized by outsized concern about schools working for children who weren’t born white. AGF is fueled by data and information, two things that would be gone if we had a day without school reform. That sounds bad at first, but we could definitely close the achievement gap if we stop separating school results by race.
That would mean public schools could get back to what really matters, educating white children to rule America.
4# Public schools could work again
According to Yes! Magazine, public schools are not failing. In fact, they’re doing quite well (just don’t ask how nonwhite or poor students are doing). A day without school reform would mean that schools could focus on joy, play, recess, and supporting the needs of kids who come to school knowing most of what they need to learn already.
As an additional bonus, school leaders could spend more time organizing levies and referendums rather than wasting so much energy on student learning and academic results.
3# Power parents can have schools that cater just to them
Face it, all of this attention on the achievement gap has really taken the focus away from white kids who have parents that pay a lot of taxes. How long did you really expect that to last school reformers?
A day of school reform would mean teachers and schools could focus exclusively on satisfying the insatiable appetites of privileged parents.
2# The return of happy students
If you’re honest, kids want rigorous schools, hard coursework, and demands on their brainpower like they want to eat salads for breakfast. The high stakes of having to complete assignments, learn material, and then demonstrate their learning has really killed their buzz.
Removing all the stakes and expectations so that they get a trophy for effort, whether they learn or not, will make school fun again.
2# The return of happy teachers
No one has suffered more under school reform than teachers. It’s gotten so bad that many of them are actually being evaluated. Some even are being asked to meet expectations. School reformers must admit that the push to get results with students has seriously bummed teachers out and made them want to leave for occupations that have no expectations.
A day without school reform would mean they could show movies in class, serve students who show the most promise, and stop worrying about whether or not their teaching is resulting in learning for kids who obviously have no chance of learning (without a teacher needing to be a “hero” all the time).
#1 More money, less trouble
Let’s be real, shutting down school reform would bring back a ton of no-strings cash into traditional school districts. Once charter schools have closed their doors, and voucher programs have been banned, families would have no choice but to return their kids to the old school systems.
Imagine the possibility of having a captive population of students who generate per pupil revenue with zero expectation for results.
Having ditched accountability, evaluation, and expectations, all public schools would be considered equally good.
So, while those of us who want to seriously improve the outcomes of marginalized children in public schools are dismayed by what seems like a waning commitment to change, we have to realize the death of school reform wouldn’t be bad for everyone.
It would be great for awful people.