Richard Buery, CEO of the Children’s Aid Society got it right in his blog entitled, “A School Reform Strategy That Works”. He opines that “the education reform debate has been stuck for too long between competing advocates offering a set of false choice.” The competing positions Buery mentions are school accountability without regard for the challenges students and their schools face, versus the belief that schools can’t do it alone, but require a community’s support to overcome those challenges – the community school model. As Buery argues, we need to do both.
Like the other issues with which our nation is grappling – the economy, the environment, immigration, gun control, homeland security and many others – there are no simple solutions to reforming America’s schools. We need a systemic response to address the multiple causes that come together and combine in complicated ways. We need to have educators, parents, students and the local communities on the same page and focusing on their specific responsibilities for improving education.
Buery is right. Schools cannot be allowed to avoid accountability or blame poor performance on the disabilities of the students they serve. The conventional wisdom that poverty, cultural diversity, limited English proficiency and special needs are all predictors of student failure has been debunked. Doug Reeves, among other researchers, has demonstrated that these attributes affect student performance only when a school does not adjust to these demographic factors. When met with modifications to programs and instructional strategy, their statistical significance is neutralized.
Reeves also is correct in his assertion that society at-large cannot be allowed to point the finger at the education system and demand improved performance. Society must shoulder responsibility for providing the social services the less fortunate and culturally diverse require in order to succeed.
Collaboration between schools, the families they serve and the communities in which they are a part is required. These parties are jointly responsible for providing the quality educational opportunity very child deserves. The community school model is a great step forward in aiding this achievement.