A New Future of Education?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the education system–specifically the PK-12 system–and various proposals floating out there to improve student performance. Many of the proposals are about fixing the system, yes, or “reforming” the system, and throw out ideas like pay for performance, charter schools, closing low-performing schools, increased accountability, national standards.

In a recent New Yorker article, The Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care. Atul Gawande makes the argument that instead of reforming the health care system, we need a whole new model for how medicine works. To wit:

And that will mean rewarding doctors and hospitals if they band together to form…accountable-care organizations, in which doctors collaborate to increase prevention and the quality of care, while discouraging overtreatment, undertreatment, and sheer profiteering.

What if what we really need, rather than fixing or reforming the system, is a whole new system of education? One where teachers and administrators, rather than working in isolation as individual teachers, individual schools, individual districts, banded together in more cooperative ways?

I’m coming from the world of education. Virtually my entire professional life has been in education. I believe in things like experience-based learning, student-centered classrooms, assessing student progress with projects and portfolios. I believe in teacher education programs and the importance of having well-educated and well-prepared teachers in the classroom.

And yet, something is obviously going wrong–continuing to go wrong–in many schools today where far too many students are dropping out or not meeting progress standards, and the students are disproportionally from low-income or high-minority schools. And while reform in various ways is one answer, perhaps thinking critically about more comprehensive, perhaps more radical, changes to education is another answer.



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