The session long project will consist of five sections. Each section will lead into the next as the topic of school reform is discussed. The time period of this piece will start in the early 1950’s and extend into the next century. This paper will reflect upon the four principles of the “No Child Left Behind” Act and will present an essay on contemporary school reform. Additionally, the paper will introduce the latest new areas of school reform that have become prevalent in the last five years. There are many benefits in studying school reform because it is a lesson of time. Research in school reform will help determine what previous decisions have proven successful and what progress was seen. Additionally, it will show if previous ventures and efforts are transferable to new schools with new students.
II. Chronology and Overview of School Reform (1952-Present)
BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION
The year was 1950. While other children were running, playing and doing their homework, one little girl was simply trying to get an education. When Linda Carol Brown was seven years old, she became the center of a major court battle that would set a precedent for segregation laws everywhere. Linda was required to attend the Monroe School in East Topeka, Kansas, because it was twenty blocks away from her home and because it was one of the four all-black schools in the city. After Linda’s father tried unsuccessfully to enroll her in the third grade in an all-white public school further away, he teamed up with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to fight her unfair exclusion. This Kansas lawsuit, along with similar lawsuits from Delaware, South Carolina and Virginia, were all compiled under the heading of “Brown v. the Board of Education”. The momentous decision that was made two years later is still viewed as one of the most important and significant rulings that the High Court has made in the last century. The main issue that was focused on in this case was whether or not the 14th Amendment was violated by denying education in a specific school, simply due to race. The Amendment that was focused on stated, in summary, that no person, who is a citizen of the United States, should be denied equal protections under the law or the right to life, liberty or property. What had to be decided was if segregation fell under the idea of equal protections. This was a major issue because seventeen states were still segregating their schools, four states gave the option of segregation to the school districts, eleven states had no specific laws regarding segregation and sixteen states flatly prohibited it. By May 17, 1954, four years after Linda Brown’s rejection from the school in Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court had reached a unanimous decision.
Chief Justice Earl Warren stated:
“To separate [elementary- and secondary-school
children] from others of similar age and
qualifications solely because of their race
generates a feeling of inferiority as to their
status in the community that may affect their
hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be
undone. We conclude that in the field of public
education, the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’
has no place. Separate educational facilities
are inherently unequal.”
This public declaration against segregation in education was only the first step in making the United States school system more equal. One year later the Supreme Court created procedures under which school boards would desegregate their schools “with all deliberate speed.” This decision, although spoken easily, was not implemented easily. School systems that had been segregated since they had began, fought and fought hard. Three years after that ruling was made, federal troops had to escort nine black children into a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Six years later, state officials were still fighting this ruling. Courts had to order and enforce the segregation ruling time and time again, trying to uphold their decision. In 1979 Linda Brown Thompson even went to court again, to sue Topeka for allowing their schools to remain segregated. Although the case of Brown v. the Board of Education has not solved all of the racial and segregation problems in this country, it was a major step in the right direction. Every problem needs to be acknowledged and defined before anyone can attempt to solve it and the acknowledgement by the Supreme Court of segregation does give a precedent with which to attempt to alleviate this problem of inequality in our land of equal opportunities.
The educational aspirations Americans hold for their children have never been higher than they are today. The demand for education is contagious and readily transferred from generation to generation. Parents want more and better schooling for their children than they had ever had. The need for unskilled and uneducated labor has almost vanished, and the need for highly educated labor continues to be in great demand. However education has its expenses and not everyone is able to financially afford to be better educated. The federal government has put its best foot forward to help with citizens who need extra money for their education. Thanks to the G.I. Bill, National Defense Education Act (NDEA), and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) many Americans have been able to reach higher education. The “G.I. Bill of Rights” is a body of federal legislation, which has provided educational and other benefits for veterans of World War II. Over 11 million persons have availed themselves of these benefits. A general aim for this legislation has been to compensate veterans for their sacrifices and services. Another important reason, however, has been the necessity (particularly in the 1940’s) of reintegrating the numbers of returning servicemen into the civilian economy and into the national life. No review could possibly describe the massive impact of the World War II G.I. Bill on the nation or the individual lives of veterans who were aided through this program and have since graduated with careers as doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, accountants, mechanics, clergymen, and farmers. Many historians have rated the G.I. Bill of Rights one of the most enlightened pieces of legislation ever enacted by the Congress of the United States. Some describe it as one of the most successful experiments in socioeconomic expansion undertaken by the U.S. government. Certainly, as long as U.S. citizens continue to be drafted for military service, this kind of legislation will remain high on the legislative priority list.
In 1958 Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), which appropriated federal funds to improve instruction in those areas considered crucial to national defense and security. The areas that were considered were mathematics, foreign language and science. Between 1955 and 1958, there was intense debate about federal aid to elementary and secondary schools. Special interests and political dynamics blocked the enactment of federal aid legislation. However, in 1957 the political situation changed when the Soviet Union, the rival of the United States in the Cold War successfully orbited Sputnik, a space satellite. The Soviet space success and well-publicized American space failures induced a climate of national crisis. Critics pointed to the deficiencies of American students in mathematics and science. The Sputnik crisis sparked national legislation to support training, equipment, and programs in fields vital to defense. The scientific community including university scholars and curriculum specialists are often called upon to reconstruct subject-matter content, especially on the high school level.
Another program that increased federal financial involvement still further was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965. Whereas the NDEA emphasized science and mathematics, the ESEA was a federal response to the significant social change occurring in American society. Many African American students as well as members of other minority groups, especially in inner- city areas, were educationally disadvantaged because of social and economic conditions. The ESEA related to President Lyndon Johnson’s program, “War on Poverty,” which encouraged special programs for children of low-income families. It also created a range of early childhood educational programs for economically and culturally disadvantaged children. These programs had an impact on early childhood education not only for minority children, but for all children. When the ESEA was passed it immediately provided $1 billion to supplement and improve the education of economically disadvantaged children. In 1981, Title I of ESEA was revised and is now named Chapter 1 of the Educational Consolidation and Improvement Act (ECIA). In 1992 Chapter 1 funding was nearly $7 billion. Research indicates that Chapter 1 programs still do not ensure students will acquire the academic and intellectual skills necessary for obtaining good jobs in a modern economy, however, Chapter 1 students typically gain a year in reading and math achievement for each year of participation in elementary grades, and thus no longer fall further behind their advantaged peers. Various problems do persist and many disadvantaged students receive only one or two years of compensatory services and then tend to decline in relative achievement. Participants who start out far behind national achievement averages usually remain there, and many of the Chapter 1 programs conducted nationally are poorly implemented and ineffective.
PUBLIC LAW 94-142
Thirty years ago President Ford along with Congress passed legislation that was intended to improve opportunities in education for handicapped children and adults through the provision of a free appropriate public education. This law was called Public Law 94-142. This law provided that handicapped children and adults ages 3-21 be educated in the “least restrictive environment” to the maximum extent appropriate, meaning that they are educated with children who are not handicapped and that special classes, separate schools or other removal of children from their regular educational environment occurs only when the severity of the handicap is such that education in regular classes cannot be achieved. Before a child can be placed in a special education program, an extensive evaluation procedure is required by PL 94-142. These criteria must be determined before a child can be placed:
-whether a child has a physical or mental disability that
substantially limits learning.
-the possible causes of a child’s disability
-strengths and weaknesses of a child in physical, emotional,
social, vocational and intellectual areas
-the educational diagnosis category that best describes a
-the special services, instructional techniques and other
interventions that the child needs
-the appropriate instructional placement for the child
-reasonable predictions of the child’s academic, social and
The school is required to receive written permission from the parent before conducting an evaluation of the child. Once the child’s evaluation is complete and it is determined that the child is indeed eligible for placement in special education, an Individual Education Plan (i.e.p.) must be written to meet the needs of that child. An interdisciplinary team is formed to write the child’s I.E.P. Under PL 94-142, the team should, at a minimum, consist of a representative of the local school district, the child’s teachers and the child’s parents. PL 94-142 does stipulate certain criteria that are to be included in the I.E.P. Included should be a statement of the child’s present level of educational performance; the annual goals, including short term instructional objectives; the specific special education and related services to be provided for the child and the extent to which the child will be able to participate in regular education program; the projected dates for initiation of services and anticipated duration of services; the appropriate objective criteria and assessment procedures and schedule for determining on at least an annual basis whether the short term instructional objectives are being met. Parents should be provided training through a not-for-profit agency to enable them to participate more effectively with professionals in meeting educational needs of their child. This training should enable parents to:
-better understand nature and needs of the handicapping
conditions of the child.
-provide follow-up support for the child’s educational program
-participate in educational decision making process including
the development of the I.E.P.
-obtain information about programs, resources, and services
available to child and parent
-understand provisions for the education of their child
under PL 94-142
Two landmark cases involving Students’ Rights are Tinker V. Des Moines and the Goss V. Lopez case. These two court cases set the foundation for our laws and policies regarding students and administrators. In the Tinker V. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969), fifteen-year old John F. Tinker and his thirteen-year old sister were suspended from school for wearing black arm-bands in protest of the Vietnam war. These arm-bands were to be worn from December 16 to the end of the Holiday season. Prior to the start of the protest, principals learned of the protest and adopted a policy stipulating that any student wearing an arm-band to school would have to remove it or face suspension. After the Tinkers and other students were suspended for not complying with the policy the Tinker parents filed suit in federal court, charging that the rule and disciplinary action taken against the young people violated their First Amendment right to Freedom of speech and expression. Four years later, in a decision that for the first time enunciated court doctrine on students’ First Amendment right to free speech, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. The court finally acknowledged that students do not shed their constitutional rights of freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.
According to the Tinker Doctrine “undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression and school authorities must accept ” mere disturbances” when students exercise their First Amendment rights. In the Goss V. Lopez case, Students right to due process was established. Dwight Lopez was a student at Columbus Central High School and in February of 1971 a number of students was involved in a disturbance in the lunchroom that resulted in property damage. Lopez denied that he was a participant in the disturbance but was suspended, before he could give his side of the story, for a ten-day period. Lopez and eight other students who received suspension filed suit in the Federal District Court claiming violation of their Fourteen Amendment Rights to due process of law. The Court handed down its decision January of 1975 that students facing suspension ” must be given some kind of notice and afforded some kind of hearing” before being deprived of their education. These two land mark cases are referred to most often when cases involving students rights are concerned. Though some see the Tinker Doctrine as weak because it is written in very general language, this case is what gives our foundation for students’ rights.
A NATION AT RISK: THE IMPERATIVE FOR EDUCATIONAL REFORM, 1983
A Nation At Risk is a report that was issued by the National Commission on Excellence in Education. The members of this commission were appointed by the Education Secretary, Terrel Bell. This report was the result of an eighteen-month study. The report concentrated primarily on secondary education. Secondary schools curricula were closely examined and it was found that the curricula no longer had a central purpose unifying all of the subjects. The state of American Education was found to be very bad. “What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur – others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments” . Some findings of this report show that the risks are that “Some 23 million American adults are functionally illiterate by the simplest test of everyday reading, writing, and comprehension. About 13 percent of all 17-year-olds in the United States can be considered functionally illiterate” . The problem was cited as often being in the way that the educational process itself was being conducted. “Compared to other nations, American students spend much less time on school work” Economic repercussions were presumed to occur because of this poor state of American education. It was thought that as long as we continued to decline in education we would lose our competitive edge in the world’s market economy. The findings of this report were considered particularly depressing when one takes into account that the demand for highly skilled workers in scientific and technological fields was at an all time high.
Therefore, this report suggested five new basics to be added to the curriculum of America’s schools. These basics included four years of English, three years of math, three years of science, three years of social studies, and half a year of computer science in America’s high schools. Specific standards were established as to what should be accomplished by these five basics. “The teaching of English in high school should equip graduates to: (a) comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and use what they read; (b) write well-organized, effective papers; (c) listen effectively and discuss ideas intelligently; and (d) know our literary heritage and how it enhances imagination and ethical understanding, and how it relates to the customs, ideas, and values of today’s life and culture. The teaching of mathematics in high school should equip graduates to: (a) understand geometric and algebraic concepts; (b) understand elementary probability and statistics; (c) apply mathematics in everyday situations; and (d) estimate, approximate, measure, and test the accuracy of their calculations. In addition to the traditional sequence of studies available for college-bound students, new equally demanding mathematics curricula need to be developed for those who do not plan to continue their formal education immediately”. These basics were to enable us to achieve excellence. In addition to these new basics it was also proposed that the study of foreign languages should be begun in the elementary schools. Excellence as defined by the National Commission on Excellence in Education is “a school or college that sets high expectations and goals for all learners, then tries in every way possible to help students reach them”.
As a way to increase our educational position in the world this commission suggested that teaching, teacher education, and education standards be reformed. The virtues of life-long learning for all were also extolled. This report cited a high demand for increased support for those who teach mathematics, science, foreign languages, and specialists in education for gifted and talented, language minority, and handicapped students. The study found that those who were interested in the field of education were all to often not academically qualified. “The teacher preparation curriculum is weighted heavily with courses in ‘education methods’ at the expense of courses in subjects to be taught” (22). This report also encouraged the raising of teachers salaries in order to attract and retain qualified teachers. Going hand in hand with this concept would be the institution of merit pay and incentives such as grants and loans.
GOALS 2000 – THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION EDUCATION PROGRAM
In late 1989, President Bush and the Nation’s Governors met in Virginia for a bipartisan “Education Summit.” At this summit, the groundwork was laid for the National Education Goals, which are all part of the Goals 2000 Education Program. Under the Bush administration, the program was called “America 2000.” The goals were not to be used for political gain or as a hollow promise. They were the centerpiece for education reform in both the Bush and Clinton Administrations. They serve as a nationwide pact by which we can measure the output of our educational systems throughout America. The passing of the GOALS 2000: Educate America Act on March 31 of 1994 allowed the federal government a new role in its support for education. The federal government can now promote a comprehensive approach to help all students succeed in life. The National Education Goals are listed, followed by current information about why these goals are needed. By the year 2000:
1. Every child will start school ready to learn.
2. The high school graduation rate will increase to at least
3. American students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having
demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter
including english, mathematics, science, foreign languages,
civics and government, economics, art, history, and geography;
and every school in America will ensure that all students learn
to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible
citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in
our nation’s modern economy.
4. The nation’s teaching force will have access to programs for
the continued improvement of their professional skills needed to
instruct and prepare all American students for the next century.
5. U.S. students will be first in the world in science and
6. Every adult American will be literate and will possess the
knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy
and exercise rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
7. Every school in the United States will be free of drugs,
violence, and the unauthorized presence of firearms and
alcohol and will offer a disciplined environment conducive to
8. Every school will promote partnerships that will increase
parental involvement and participation in promoting the social,
emotional, and academic growth of children.
Early on in the reform movement, many educators became interested in a wave of new education theories that offered new insights into the way students learn and retain knowledge. Some of these theories, including constructivism and multiple intelligence theory, continue to grow in popularity today. Yet the application of these new theories have not always gone so smoothly: as we shall later see in the debates over whole language and whole math, the enthusiastic rush to apply new theory into practice has not always met with the best results. One of the greatest complaints over the American education system has been its top-down approach; for many years policymakers at the federal level have attempted to dictate education policy at the state and local level. Over time a broad grass-roots coalition of concerned parents and politicians began to push for more local control. This bottom-up approach to learning would be found in states gaining control from the federal government, districts gaining control from the states, schools gaining control from the districts, and eventually, parents gaining control from the schools. This movement has solidified into a broad family of policy concepts. With Site-Based Management and teacher professionalism, schools and teachers are asserting more control over education management decisions. Non-profit charter schools and for-profit education management organizations offer students public school learning environments that break away from the traditional state-run system. Through school choice, parents can choose to take their students out of poorly run schools and place them into other institutions – including parochial schools in some cases. And an increasing number of families are choosing to reject classrooms altogether and adopt home-schooling instead.
Each attempt to take charge in school reform has come with ever-increasing calls for accountability. As will be seen, determining how to assess accountability and who should be held accountable for failing students is far from cut and dry. The first major milestone in the current generation of education reform appeared in 1983 with the publication of the report “A Nation at Risk”. The report outlined the poor state of affairs within the K-12 environment, from low basic comprehension rates to high dropout rates. A Nation at Risk became the call to arms for administrators and policy makers and ushered in what became known as the first wave of education reform. One of the greatest changes initiated by first wave reform was that of standardization. Though the majority of states already required periodic standardized testing of students, the results of those tests did not always lead to direct assistance to the children who were scoring poorly. By the mid-1980s, though, 45 states had expanded their testing, including more strenuous graduation requirements, more regular testing and greater standardized test preparation. Additionally, numerous states began to legislate merit pay programs for educators. By 1986, 46 states offered merit pay plans, an increase from 28 states in 1983. Teachers were evaluated on their educating ability and knowledge of their subjects in order to determine periodic raises and bonuses. But despite the vast developments of first wave reform, research now suggests that this focus on standardization did little to affect student learning and comprehension The studies suggested that changes in professionalism and administration did not always trickle down to effective education strategy implementation. Teaching guidelines became more complex and less coherent. Reform, therefore, had to tackle the bureaucracy of the administrative structure, as well as curricular planning, assessment and teacher empowerment.
III. The Four Principles of the NCLB Act
Most American parents who know about “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) school reforms like the concept, but they also would oppose implementation of any of its punitive terms in their own child’s school, according to the first national opinion survey since NCLB implementation to zero in specifically on what the parents of school-age children think about the two-year-old initiative. Conducted among 699 parents by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC), the survey is sponsored by Results for America, a project of the nonprofit Civil Society Institute.
According to the RFA survey, a third of all parents (34 percent) who have heard of NCLB see the school reforms as “punishing schools for failure instead of rewarding them for success,” a quarter view it as “limiting learning by students” (25 percent), while fewer than half (46 percent) associate NCLB with “improving learning.” The RFA survey also found almost no parental support (10 percent) for increased spending on the increasingly controversial school reform plan. This is true even though there is widespread awareness (78 percent) of NCLB among parents, with two-thirds (68 percent v. 22 percent) of the NCLB-aware parents expressing support for the concept of the school reforms.
Many parents have major concerns when the focus shifts from the abstract concept of NCLB to the real-world specifics of the reforms, including high-stakes testing (only 51 percent support, with just 17 percent expressing “strong” support and 33 percent “somewhat” supportive) and taking funds from schools deemed to be “failing,” particularly those of their children (only 19 percent supporting such a move). Significantly, most parents would prefer to see any additional federal education funds spent on smaller class sizes (52percent), not enforcement or further implementation of NCLB (10 percent). “This survey makes it clear that concerns about ‘No Child Left Behind’ go up the closer it gets to the homes of parents and the schools attended by their children,” said Civil Society Institute President Pam Solo.
Parents don’t much like the idea of high-stakes testing on which everything rides on the outcome of dubious quizzes or the notion that their own child’s school could be branded a ‘failure’ and penalized.”
The NCLB Act calls for stronger accountability for results that are positive, flexibility among states and communities, using proven educational methods, and providing more choices for parents. I have found that teachers do not see an improvement. In fact, in my state of Massachusetts, a student entering her senior year of high school is suing the board of education stating that inner-city schools are not receiving the necessary resources to support the legislation. Currently, the Supreme Court is debating the lawsuit. However, a lower court judge has already ruled in favor of the student claiming in fact that inner city schools have a disadvantage.
IV. Preeminent Contemporary School Reform
The topic that was chosen for this project was instructional leadership. The major issues surrounding this issue include what types of reform work and how to go about instituting change. What can be learned from other schools is important. For example, in the Memphis City Schools from 1995 to 1999, they experienced unique restructuring that led to inclusion of systemic school reform.
In 1992 the Memphis School District hired a new superintendent. Dr. Gerry House had achieved highly publicized success in nearby Chapel Hill, North Carolina and was invited to transform her success in Chapel Hill to Memphis, Tennessee. The report on Memphis’s restructuring is a prime example of comprehensive school reform, site-based management, and systemic change. Additionally, it provides a framework for the impact the aforementioned have on the successful management of change.
When Gerry House assumed the role of superintendent of the Memphis School District, the first thing she did was to establish a site-based management at each school. Memphis is the largest school system in Tennessee serving over 115,00 students in 161 different schools. The concept of site-based management is essentially giving more power, authority, and accountability to the teachers, parents, and individual schools. Site-based management is considered a “high-involvement” approach because it requires that employees become deeply involved in the ongoing improvement of the organization. For the teachers, parents, and students to experience success they need to be committed to success. Corporations outside of education have utilized similar site-based management techniques and have seen dramatic positive results. House was hoping to experience the same success by installing a site-based management focus as her first decision for the Memphis school’s future.
Gerry House decided that both individual schools and leadership teams would succeed in identifying and developing effective whole-school comprehensive school reform programs for improving instruction and learning. However, the Memphis school district did not embrace this school reform model and found the experience to be very challenging. Most school staffs stated that they did not have the time or expertise to conduct the research and development work required to make substantial changes. Thus, Superintendent House’s first initiative of site-based management was later replaced with a full systemic reform.
In March of 1995, New American Schools (NAS) selected Memphis City schools as a community committed to adopting a new school reform. This new design would incorporate the use of eight reform models. All eight models included the including of high level performance standards for students, increased teacher involvement, site-based professional development and planning time, and increased use of performance assessments requiring students to demonstrate their learning instead of answering objective questions. It is an example of systemic change because it was system-wide and affected all schools, faculty, and students. In fact, within two years of the being selected by the NAS, all schools were required to use their existing site-based management funds on their chosen reform model.
In the first three years of the new school reforms most schools chose models they truly believed could improve teaching and learning in their schools. The teachers and community were “buying-in” to the notion of comprehensive school reform. In the restructuring schools teaching and learning were becoming more active. Based on systematic observations and teacher interviews, cooperative learning, project-based learning, and technological applications were increasing. Instruction was becoming centered on the student and the students were more engaged in their lessons. The superintendent felt that this success could be seen in all of the remaining schools and declared that by 1997, that all schools adopt reform models.
Complete systemic reform was realized in 1998 when all 161 schools were involved in one model of school reform. However, due to the expansion of restructuring, the Memphis School District found the systemic approach difficult to sustain. The large number of reform schools and the eight different models being used system-wide decreased the support level being given to each individual school. Additionally, it created a distinction between successful schools and schools that were below performance level. The schools that experienced high student achievement were not easily willing to adopt the school reform. The schools that needed the reform the most had to account for different faculty each September due to teacher turnover and this made it harder for substantial change.
The Memphis School District had a hard time sustaining the commitment of its faculties. The commitment to reform efforts lessened each year as some teachers felt that certain reform models were being favored due to pressure from central administration. The author of the reform initiative, Gerry House, and her Deputy Superintendent, Kalkofen had announced their intentions of leaving. Within five years of the school reforms, the district had seen substantial success in restructuring schools but had already seen a diminish in support and intensity in it’s delivery year to year. The three biggest factors associated with the lack of continued success was teacher turnover, lack of professional development, and teachers believing in the model reform product.
Teachers felt that their schools were already performing well prior to House’s hiring and when given the directive to pick one of eight school reforms to implement, the teachers picked the least expensive and the school reform that exhibited the least change. The experiences outlined in Memphis show that a systemic approach does not always work. The Memphis City School District should not have required that all schools adopt a school reform. Change is not always the same as reform. Reform is a more drastic measure and requires a lot of input and intensity. Change is different because it is a plan for improvement. This plan could include researched strategies, external assistance, based on systematic needs assessment using data collection, school environment sensitive, student achievement, and community satisfaction.
The bottom line in any school reform is that teachers have to make the change happen and they have to make the reform work. The use of different models extends the capacity for training and support and makes it hard for students that transfer within the school district. Also, there will always be those skeptics within the organization, and not limited to just teachers (principals), who feel that their efforts are not serving the student or the schools, but in fact, serving to further advance a political or district leader’s career. Some would point out that the new superintendent House was hired after showing successful school reform in neighboring Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Some teachers felt that not all Memphis schools were ready to undertake school reform due to weak leadership, low teacher support, and insufficient resources. All of the 161 schools should have learned more about the school design, performed a needs assessment to determine if the school is ready for reform, and to target certain areas of need based on achievement scores.
The team of education is made up of many players. All players must work together for school reform to work. The needs of the teachers, curriculum, and school environment need to be addressed first in order to create a climate for change. All of the players need to be committed to the reform. Comprehensive school reform is an outline and process for change enhanced by focusing on improving teaching and learning, increasing parental involvement, providing professional development, and having the necessary resources.
The Memphis City School District is an example of comprehensive school reform using site-based management style to achieve systemic change. The new superintendent attempted to deliver a school reform that used site-based management initiatives deemed at placing more authority in each individual school. Once success was seen in the first five years, the school district attempted a systemic change. This reform was not as successful as support for the school reforms decreased and support became lax. The strongest impact it has on successful management of change is that each school is different and based on its location; it services different climates of students. Reform in Memphis was showing promise early when only 34 of the existing 161 schools were using a site-based management approach to comprehensive school reform. However, the district attempted a systemic change and found that they could not sustain the initial success and support of the first five years. The Memphis experience has manifest comprehensive school reform models and initiatives using a site-based management style to achieve systemic change. Many superintendents will learn from House’s gain and loss and will implement similar school reforms.
V. New Areas of School Reform on the Horizon
I have often thought about what the schools of the future will look like? I have also wondered what issues will be important to me as the parent of a student? I honestly feel that schools will have to understand their students better. For example, the use of television and video at home as a tool for not only entertainment, but educationally has risen. Children are being raised by their televisions as both parents work. I think that more classrooms will need to have better access to the internet and to televisions. The television can serve as a vital tool because it acquires and sustains the attention of children. When given the choice of a lecture from a human being (teacher), or watch a movie, the student will pick the latter. When I was a child I had never heard of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). When I look back, I can see how kids I knew must have suffered from this yet diagnosed and identified ailment and probably could have benefit from a certain proscribed medicine. However, children know lack the attention span required for some classes they find boring such as Math or English.
School reform of the future will be to expand internet and media technologies. I also feel that the use of standardized tests will be determined to be unconstitutional because studies will prove that these tests cause anxiety in children. We can only hope as educators that the future is bright. We can only hope that initiatives made will make positive changes for better schools, to produce better students, to create a better tomorrow.