School Reform but not School Improvement

Reform gets a bad name when educational leaders experiment with educating children. 

Transformation but No Improvement! Ed Johnson, Advocate for Quality in Public Education for many years has stood as a solid educational advocate for Atlanta children and families. He has consistently spoken out about the current Atlanta Public Schools District. He has written and spoken these words; Atlanta has had school choice as charter schools and school reform without school improvement in effect since about 2015.  This being the case, the research paper Social Class and Parent-Child Relationships: An Interpretation, by Melvin L. Kohn, offers insight more rational than, it’s luck:

“We, too, found that working-class parents value obedience, neatness, and cleanliness more highly than do middle-class parents, and that middle-class parents in turn value curiosity, happiness, consideration, and—most importantly—self-control more highly than do working-class parents.  We further found that there are characteristic clusters of value choice in the two social classes: working-class parental values center on conformity to external prescriptions, middle-class parental values on self-direction.  To working-class parents, it is the overt act that matters: the child should not transgress externally imposed rules; to middle-class parents, it is the child’s motive and feelings that matter: the child should govern himself.”

Arguably, APSL’s school choice as charter schools and school turnaround without school improvement lend credence to Kohn’s research findings.  Specifically, simple observations of behavior make it clear that Harvard-trained Meria Carstarphen brought into APS with her hiring, in 2014, a way of thinking that calls for deliberately and intentionally playing on low- and working-class parents’ values of “obedience, neatness, and cleanliness” and “conformity to external prescriptions,” so as to manipulate the parents to believe and accept their children deserve training more so than education, even psychologically abusive training (i.e., operant conditioning, as developed at Harvard University).  The picture below clearly illustrates the matter.  And it is a matter that contrasts sharply with educating, more so than training, elite- and middle-class children rooted in their parents’ values of “curiosity, happiness, consideration, and … self-control” and “self-direction.”

Mr. Johnson has not only been critical of the reform approach but also offered consistent research, resources and opportunities to engage statement in the process. One of the challenges within the APS school transformation/turn around process has been engagement. Even with the new direction that APS has taken with family engagement, there are still hundreds of families who aren’t getting the academic and administrative resources needed for their child(ren) to succeed.

make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.
“an opportunity to reform and restructure an antiquated schooling model”
Engagement is at the core of reform. If all stakeholders aren’t involved, than true reform isn’t happening. This is what school reform with no school improvement looks like when engagement isn’t happening.

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