EDPolicy 101: What’s reform got to do with it?

New Yorkers love this slogan. What if we applied it to schools?

Education policymakers and leaders love “reform.” It seems like every year new buzz words emerge: multiple intelligences, differientation, outcome based education, whole language, whole child, and a whole lotta confusion. On last week’s radio show we discussed the current reform initiatives championed by the Obama Administration. Our focus was the impact of Race to the Top on states including their implementation of current reform initatives: common core, teacher evaluation and charter schools.

Part of my motivation for launching Education Policy Cafe emerged from frustration with how reforms were often “rolled out” (the term favored by the NYC Department of Education) during my time working in schools as an educator. Hearing the term during professional development workshop almost became a harbinger of doom. I recognize that my new role as a researcher and writer should keep me from using such hyperbole, however I would be lying if I said I welcomed the new ideas “coming down the pike.” I would sit in my classroom filled with students, some over age, some with mild reading disabilities, many with emotional and behavorial problems and wondered if the policymakers in Tweed remembered what it felt like to teach everyday. My students were high needs but it seemed at time the adults were as well. Compliance, deadlines, reviews and evaluations formed the four wall Citadel I inhabited. How can an educator inspire and motivate in such a space?

Alas, I am an idealist and a dreamer. I can’t really help it.. it’s in my DNA. So I did what people like me tend to do: Break out and make something new. In NYC there are signs that say “if you see something, say something.” Well everyday I saw what policy gone awry looks like from the front lines. I feel a moral responsibility to myself, my former students and concerned citizens to make an impact on education in a real substantial way.

To be continued..