The Secret Fraud To School Reform

Anyone else who has spent the last 50 years in class rooms understands today’s valiant calls for reform are very much the same valiant calls from over the last 150 years. Ever since free public education became the norm, reformers have been valiantly seeking to raise the norm.

That’s the good part. The sad part is that improving schools is not the same as improving skyscraper or highway construction. There are far more elusive pieces to this puzzle, and so far one of those pieces is still missing from any formula: The parents!

Reformers have access to the other pieces: teachers, principals, buildings, textbooks and curriculum. But when the stats show 40% of students come from unwed parents, that’s a sure sign the student-piece comes to us already damaged.

The best reforms can have an effect on our teachers, principals, textbooks and curriculum; but there’s no real way they can reach into the broken homes of broken families in a broken economy. All the PTA meetings in all the schools in all the world aren’t going to “fix” the households from where our students are shaped and sent to us.

Everyone has seen the disheartening worldwide results. The US is 21st in science…14th in reading….30th in math. With one of the highest number of hours of teaching [1100 per year], the US is still far behind the three 1st ranking countries: China, Finland [800 hours] and South Korea [600 hours]. Everyone responds with frustration. But while people of good will search for answers, the parent-piece to this national puzzle remains out of their reach in our big city schools.

The unintended fraud built into well-intentioned reform crusades is the assumption crusades can work after the kids walk out their front door. On the contrary, they work best only with kids who walk out knowing the parents back home care. And will follow-through with their caring.

Permission to share a terribly unsophisticated example. X grumbling to Y. “By god, in my day if my teacher sent me home with a note about bad grades or bad behavior, my old man would clip me! Instead, today’s parents sue!”

What’s worse, many of today’s parents aren’t even there to get the note…

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