Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wellford Wilms: On Taking Back Our Schools

Every once in a while I'm heartened that the world still has witnesses enough with the courage to question what's happening to our children. This article is significant reading - words not heard often or loud enough.

Over the last 25 years, education in general has been taken from ordinary citizens and teachers by politicians, administrators, union leaders, publishers, test makers, consultants, university professors, hardware and software developers and the media, each playing its part in keeping alive the illusion of reform. All in all, this $1-trillion industry has replaced the common interest, and no one, it seems, can muster the will to rein it in.

Local control is only a dim memory. Decisions now come from the top—from the federal and state governments, school boards and high-level administrators who have little knowledge of what goes on in the classroom. Teachers are left out of these decisions, carrying on the best they can, safe in the assumption that the newest fad, like those before it, will blow over. Parents are all but forgotten.

While command-and-control management may seem to produce results in the short run, it strips schools of the capacity to develop the stable leadership that is necessary to sustain success. Principals are besieged with demands from district offices and from the educational fads that emanate from publishers and university researchers. Many principals know that they put their careers in peril unless they do what their bosses want. One elementary school principal told me, “District directives undermine our own abilities to think for ourselves, to believe in what we see and know.” When schools discover something that works, it is rarely sustained because they lack authority or stable leadership.

If you care about education, click on the link and read the entire piece. It is well worth your while.

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