Intelligent Discontent

Efficacy in Educational Innovation


“Innovation” and “schools” go together like “Cozy” and “house for sale” – they sound great together, and sometimes can be good news – like a well-designed, cutting edge curriculum, or an actually cozy house – but more often are used euphemistically.

I don’t know how Sandy Welch, Republican candidate for superintendent of schools, is using the word innovation, when she says “we need to start innovating“. Her plan to implement this innovation, however, seems a little bit flawed for a couple reasons.

The plan, per the IR, is that the top performing schools would be given ‘freedom to innovate’, whereas the low performing schools are would be subject to more regulation.

That doesn’t seem to make sense to me. For one thing, it’s like rather like saying that the Yankees need to be the innovators in baseball, and the Padres (no offense Pogie) need to keep playing the game the same way as ever. Shouldn’t innovation be taking place in the schools in the most trouble, where the standard methods are proving ineffective? Whereas, a school where the regulations are working out and producing acceptable results should feel less need to innovate with new methods.

But my second concern is that if such a plan was adopted, it will only feed into the poor data that already exists regarding school reform. Most notably, if such a plan was adopted, the whitest, richest schools will be the ones to adopt new programs, and then those programs will appear effective because will only be available to the schools most likely to perform well anyway. And indeed they may be, but the central problem will remain that they will not have been truly tested, and certainly not tested in the schools where they are most needed.

I don’t know enough about Ms Welch to ascribe to her any intentions with this plan, but whatever is motivating it, it should be clear that this plan represents an ineffective way to infuse reform or innovation into our schools.

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The Polish Wolf

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