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In schooling, it’s most likely to work as intended when it comes to straightforward directives—like mandating testing or the length of a school year.Policy tends to stumble when it comes to more complex questions—when they’re done.And, while I’m not the quickest study, like anyone who’s spent more than five minutes in education, I’ve got a gut reaction to the term “school reformer.” For some, it summons images of heroic charter school leaders.
By that point, bureaucracy, confusion, and nervous compliance can start to become the law of the land.
Now, multiply that a hundredfold for the deluge of state and federal rules that rain down.
So, she wants to require schools to assign a mentor to each new teacher.
But then she worries that the “problem schools” will treat the mentoring as busywork.
When all this doesn’t work out as hoped, there’s a tendency for those responsible to insist that the policy is sound and any issues are just “implementation problems.” I’ll put this bluntly: there’s no such thing as an implementation problem.
It took a while, but I eventually learned that what matters in schooling is what actually happens to 50 million kids in 100,000 schools. Calling something an implementation problem is a fancy way to avoid saying that we didn’t realize how a new policy would really work.
So, she also wants to require that mentors meet weekly with their charges and document that they’ve addressed 11 key topics in each session.
But this still can’t ensure that mentors will treat their duties as more than box-checking, so she wants to require…You see the problem. Far too often, in fact, policy unfolds like a children’s game of telephone. C., federal officials have a clear vision of what they think a change in guidance on Title I spending should mean.
Unfortunately, the research has found no evidence that any of this worked consistently.
Indeed, a recent federal evaluation of the School Improvement Grants program couldn’t unearth any significant effects on learning, no matter how the data were diced.