Politics Never Stops

I like a lot of what education scholar Paul T. Hill writes, but this piece (from nine years ago) includes a line with which I strongly disagree.

The recommendations from A Nation at Risk assumed that educators—responding to pressure—would work hard to make a difference in children’s learning. These assumptions ignored three facts: first, local school boards are political bodies pursuing many agendas, of which educational effectiveness is only one; second, school districts allow resources to follow political influence, so that poor students end up receiving the least money and the worst facilities; and third, teachers with seniority and other attributes that make them attractive can usually avoid teaching the most disadvantaged children in a school district.

The system needs to change so that schools are free of politics. School boards should have one job: making sure every child is receiving a good education. This means closing bad schools and creating options for students who are not learning.

Schools in the poorest neighborhoods need the freedom to find the best combination of people and technologies for the children they serve, including access to dollars and good teachers. Schools that get the worst of everything are now frozen by rules and contract provisions.

I disagree because the goal is impossible. Politics never stops, where this much money and these many fates are intertwined.

Dr. Hill was writing in the context of the beginning of serious education reform — the first years of No Child Left Behind. At the time he was writing teachers still believed they were the central actor of the education debate. He was in fact writing in the very last years when anyone listened to teachers — before teachers were encircled

By failing to prepare workers for careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), teachers have alienated Large-Scale Consumers of Educated Workers. By not flattering State power, they have alienated States. By refusing to help Districts in political battles against States, they have alienated the local school boards, too. By virtue of their position as a consumer of education resources, they naturally alienate Publishers. And by refusing moves to allow the measurement of their performance, they have alienated the Federal-Academic Complex.

The politics must continue so change so that the research and experimentation benefit. This means empowering local experimental schools, and empowering the federal-academic complex.

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