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Ever since 1966, when Johns Hopkins University sociologist James S. Coleman determined in his government-commissioned report that low-income children of color benefit from learning in integrated settings, most education researchers have agreed that economic inequality and social injustice are among the most powerful drivers of educational achievement gaps. What students achieve in a school, in other words, reflects their living conditions outside its walls.
Yet rather than addressing the daunting issues like persistent poverty that shape children’s lives and interfere with their learning, education reformers have largely embraced a management consultant approach. That is, they seek systems-oriented solutions that can be assessed through bottom-line indicators.
This approach fails to address the core problems shaping student achievement at a time when researchers like Sean Reardon at Stanford University find that income levels are more correlated with academic achievement than ever and the gap between rich students and less affluent kids is growing.
At the same time, reformers have tried to enact change at the largest possible scale. To work everywhere, however, education reforms must be suitable for all schools, regardless of their particular circumstances.
This cookie-cutter approach ignores educational research. Scholars consistently find that schools don’t work that way. We believe, as others do, that successful schools are thriving ecosystems adapted to local circumstances. One-size-fits-all reform programs simply can’t have a deep impact in all schools and in every community.
Read the full article on educational reform failures by Jack Schneider and David Menefee-Libey at Salon