The U.K. may be America’s Motherland, but here’s one thing the Brits can learn from the Yankees: School choice alone is a mediocre route to school improvement. The British backlash to testing and accountability is both notable and understandable—and remarkably like the American response to the failings of No Child Left Behind. But whereas the U.S. is now moving towards refining that accountability system—through new “Common Core” standards, value-added testing, and improved and meaningful teacher evaluation systems—the U.K. Conservative Party wants to pull the accountability system apart. They’d create “Academies,” a U.K. version of American charters, allow schools to use higher-quality international tests over state ones, and raise the entrance standards for prospective teacher candidates. With grade and test-score inflation and curriculum narrowing running rampant, it’s easy to understand their frustration. But independent schools, more rigorous tests, and empowered parents aren’t going to spontaneously force the system to improve. The Tories would be smarter to argue for addition rather than subtraction—choice plus accountability, not choice instead of it. What about schools failing students now? And sub-par teachers in the classroom today? American conservatives are generally repulsed by David Cameron’s policies on the environment and social issues; here’s hoping they reject his education prescriptions, too.
“A Classroom Revolution,” The Economist, April 22, 2010
“The Conservative Manifesto 2010,” Conservatives.com