Open wide

Before Sol Stern's City Journal article pitting "instructionists" against "incentivists," there was Ted Kolderie et al's white paper contrasting "innovation with school and schooling" with "system reform." The gist of both: neither the accountability movement nor school choice will ever deliver all the goods in education. But while Stern wants a return to traditional schooling, Kolderie's Education/Evolving crew seeks something rather different. "Changes in the economy are creating a need for skills and knowledge different from those sought by conventional school," they write. "We need to develop different models of schools." Perhaps--but haven't we been experimenting with new models of schools for decades? And haven't most of them faltered because they couldn't demonstrate that they helped students learn? Kolderie is right to promote education's "open sector" through stronger charter school laws. But he's not willing to accept that taxpayer dollars should go only to those schools that succeed against clear, measurable standards for what students should know and be able to do. This means messy fights between the "coverage" crowd and the "critical thinking" claque, but such is the price of public support. If that's too limiting, Kolderie can always make his pitch for innovation to the private school world, which is the original open sector. Good luck with that.

"The Other Half of the Strategy: Following up on System Reform By Innovating with School and Schooling," Education/Evolving, January 2008

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