A volume in the series: The National Education Policy Center Series. Editor(s): Kevin G. Welner, University of Colorado – Boulder. Alex Molnar, Arizona State University.
Over the past twenty years, educational policy has been characterized by top‐down, market‐focused policies combined with a push toward privatization and school choice. The new Every Student Succeeds Act continues along this path, though with decision‐making authority now shifted toward the states. These market‐based reforms have often been touted as the most promising response to the challenges of poverty and educational disenfranchisement. But has this approach been successful? Has learning improved? Have historically low‐scoring schools “turned around” or have the reforms had little effect? Have these narrow conceptions of schooling harmed the civic and social purposes of education in a democracy?
This book presents the evidence. Drawing on the work of the nation’s most prominent researchers, the book explores the major elements of these reforms, as well as the social, political, and educational contexts in which they take place. It examines the evidence supporting the most common school improvement strategies: school choice; reconstitutions, or massive personnel changes; and school closures. From there, it presents the research findings cutting across these strategies by addressing the evidence on test score trends, teacher evaluation, “miracle” schools, the Common Core State Standards, school choice, the newly emerging school improvement industry, and re‐segregation, among others.
The weight of the evidence indisputably shows little success and no promise for these reforms. Thus, the authors counsel strongly against continuing these failed policies. The book concludes with a review of more promising avenues for educational reform, including the necessity of broader societal investments for combatting poverty and adverse social conditions. While schools cannot single‐handedly overcome societal inequalities, important work can take place within the public school system, with evidence‐based interventions such as early childhood education, detracking, adequate funding and full‐service community schools—all intended to renew our nation’s commitment to democracy and equal educational opportunity.
Foreword, Jeannie Oakes. SECTION I: INTRODUCTION: THE FOUNDATIONS OF MARKET BASED REFORM, Purposes of Education: The Language of Schooling, Mike Rose. The Political Context, Janelle Scott. Historical Evolution of Test‐Based Reforms, Harvey Kantor and Robert Lowe. Predictable Failure of Test‐Based Accountability, Heinrich Mintrop and Gail Sunderman.SECTION II: TEST‐BASED SANCTIONS: WHAT THE EVIDENCE SAYS, Transformation & Reconstitution, Betty Malen and Jennifer King Rice.Turnarounds, Tina Trujillo and Michelle Valladares. Restart/Conversion, Gary Miron and Jessica Urschel. Closures, Ben Kirshner, Erica Van Steenis, Kristen Pozzoboni, and Matthew Gaertner. SECTION III: FALSE PROMISES, Miracle School Myth, P. L. Thomas. Has Test‐Based Accountability Worked? Committee on Incentives and Test‐Based Accountability in Public Education(Michael Hout & Stuart Elliott, Eds.). The Effectiveness of Test‐Based Reforms. Kevin Welner and William Mathis. Value Added Models: Teacher, Principal and School Evaluations, American Statistical Association. The Problems with the Common Core, Stan Karp. Reform and Re‐Segregation,Gary Orfield. English Language Learners. Angela Valenzuela and Brendan Maxcy. Racial Disproportionality: Discipline, Anne Gregory, Russell Skiba, and Pedro Noguera. School Choice, Christopher Lubienski and Sarah Theule Lubienski. The Privatization Industry, Patricia Burch and Jahni Smith. Virtual Education, Michael Barbour. SECTION IV: EFFECTIVE REFORMS, Addressing Poverty, David Berliner. Racial Segregation & Achievement, Richard Rothstein. Adequate Funding, Michael Rebell. Early Childhood Education,Steven Barnett. De‐Tracking, Kevin Welner and Carol Corbett Burris. Class Size, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach. School–Community Partnerships, Linda Valli, Amanda Stefanski, and Reuben Jacobson. Community Organizing for Grassroots Support, Mark Warren. Teacher Education, Audrey Amrein‐Beardsley, Joshua Barnett, and Tirupalavanam Ganesh. SECTION V: CONCLUSION.
Miracle School Myth
P.L. Thomas, Furman University
The accountability era of education reform began under President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, spurred by the Nation at Risk report. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, education reform driven by accountability, standards, and high-stakes testing remained a state-based process, but during George W. Bush’s time as governor of Texas, the seeds of national accountability were sown, labeled the Texas “miracle” and providing the framework for No Child Left Behind. “Miracle” school narratives—including the Harlem “miracle,” the Chicago “miracle,” and other claims of “miracle” reform/policies (DC public schools, charter schools) and reformers (Michelle Rhee, Geoffrey Canada)—have followed a predictable pattern: claims of “miracles,” use of those claimed “miracles” to advance particular state and national education policy, media endorsing the “miracle” claims, a nearly universal refuting of credibility of those “miracles,” and political, media, and public failure to recognize the debunking.