Education reform

Education reform

Education reform is the process of improving public education. Small improvements in education theoretically have large social returns, in health, wealth and well-being. Historically, reforms have taken different forms because the motivations of reformers have differed. A continuing motivation has been to reduce cost to students and society. From the ancient times until the 1800's, one goal was to reduce the expense of a classical education. Ideally, classical education is undertaken with a highly-educated full-time (extremely expensive) personal tutor. Historically, this was available only to the most wealthy. Encyclopedias, public libraries and grammar schools are examples of innovations intended to lower the cost of a classical education.

Related reforms attempted to develop similar classical results by concentrating on "why", and "which" questions neglected by classical education. Abstract, introspective answers to these questions can theoretically compress large amounts of facts into relatively few principles. This path was taken by some Transcendentalist educators, such as Amos Bronson Alcott. In the early modern age, Victorian schools were reformed to teach commercially useful topics, such as modern languages and mathematics, rather than classical subjects, such as Latin and Greek.

Many reformers focused on reforming society by reforming education on more scientific, humanistic, pragmatic or democratic principles. John Dewey, and Anton Makarenko are prominent examples of such reformers.

Some reformers incorporated several motivations, e.g. Maria Montessori, who both "educated for peace" (a social goal), and to "meet the needs of the child," (A humanistic goal.)

In historic Prussia, an important motivation for the invention of Kindergarten was to foster national unity by teaching a national language while children were young enough that learning a language was easy.

It's clear that reform has taken many forms and directions. Throughout history and the present day, the meaning and methods of education have changed through debates over what content or experiences result in an educated individual or an educated society.

Changes may be implemented by individual educators and/or by broad-based school organization and/or by curriculum changes with performance evaluations.


Early history

Classical times

Plato believed that children would never learn unless they wanted to learn. In The Republic (7.536e), he said, " . . compulsory learning never sticks in the mind." An important educational debate in the time of the Roman Empire arose after Christianity had achieved broad acceptance. The question concerned the educational value of pre-Christian classical thought: "Given that the body of knowledge of the pre-Christian Romans was heathen in origin, was it safe to teach it to Christian children?"[citation needed]

Modern reforms

Though educational reform undoubtedly occurred on a local level at various points throughout history, the modern notion of education reform is tied with the spread of Compulsory education - education reforms did not become widespread until after organized schooling was sufficiently systematized to be 'reformed.'

In the modern world, economic growth and the spread of democracy have raised the value of education and increased the importance of ensuring that all children and adults have access to high quality and effective education. Modern education reforms are increasingly driven by a growing understanding of what works in education and how to go about successfully improving teaching and learning in schools.[1]

Reforms of classical education

Western classical education as taught from the 18th to the 19th century has missing features that inspired reformers. Classical education is most concerned with answering the who, what, where, and when? questions that concern a majority of students. Unless carefully taught, group instruction naturally neglects the theoretical "why" and "which" questions that strongly concern a minority of students.

Classical education in this period also did not teach local languages and cultures. Instead it taught ancient languages (Greek and Latin) and their cultures. This produced odd social effects in which an intellectual class might be more loyal to ancient cultures and institutions than to their native vernacular languages and their actual governing authorities.[2]

Educational economies in the 19th century

Before the advent of government-funded public schools, the primary mode of education for those of the lower classes was the charity school, pioneered during the 19th century by Protestant organizations and adapted for use by the Roman Catholic Church and governmental bodies. Because these schools operated on very small budgets and attempted to serve as many needy children as possible, economic factors were prominent in their design.

The basic program was to develop "grammar" schools. These taught only grammar and bookkeeping. This program permits people to start businesses to make money, and gives them the skills to continue their education inexpensively from books. "Grammar" was the first third of the then-prevalent system of Classical Education.

The ultimate development of the grammar school was by Joseph Lancaster and Adam Bell who developed the monitorial system. Lancaster started as a poor Quaker in early 19th century London. Bell started the Madras School of India. The monitorial system uses slightly more-advanced students to teach less-advanced students, achieving student-teacher ratios as small as 2, while educating more than a thousand students per adult. Lancaster promoted his system in a piece called Improvements in Education that spread widely throughout the English-speaking world.

Discipline and labor in a Lancaster school were provided by an economic system. Scrip, a form of money meaningless outside the school, was created at a fixed exchange rate from a student's tuition. Every job of the school was bid-for by students in scrip. The highestrendered. However, any student tutor could auction positions in his or her classes. Besides tutoring, students could use scrip to buy food, school supplies, books, and childish luxuries in a school store. The adult supervisors were paid from the bids on jobs.

With fully developed internal economies, Lancaster schools provided a grammar-school education for a cost per student near $40 per year in 1999 U.S. dollars. The students were very clever at reducing their costs, and once invented, improvements were widely adopted in a school. For example, Lancaster students, motivated to save scrip, ultimately rented individual pages of textbooks from the school library, and read them in groups around music stands to reduce textbook costs. Exchanges of tutoring, and using receipts from "down tutoring" to pay

Lancaster schools usually lacked sufficient adult supervision. As a result, the older children acting as disciplinary monitors tended to become brutal task masters. Also, the schools did not teach submission to orthodox Christian beliefs or government authorities. As a result, most English-speaking countries developed mandatory publicly paid education explicitly to keep public education in "responsible" hands. These elites said that Lancaster schools might become dishonest, provide poor education and were not accountable to established authorities.

Lancaster's supporters responded that any schoolchild could avoid cheats, given the opportunity, and that the government was not paying for the education, and thus deserved no say in their composition.

Lancaster, though motivated by charity, claimed in his pamphlets to be surprised to find that he lived well on the income of his school, even while the low costs made it available to the poorest street-children. Ironically, Lancaster lived on the charity of friends in his later life.[3]

Progressive reforms in Europe and the United States

The term progressive in education has been used somewhat indiscriminately; there are a number of kinds of educational progressivism, most of the historically significant kinds peaking in the period between the late 19th and the middle of the 20th centuries.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau has been called the father of the child-study movement. It has been said that Rousseau "discovered" the child (as an object of study).

Rousseau's principal work on education is Emile: Or, On Education, in which he lays out an educational program for a hypothetical newborn's education to adulthood. Rousseau provided a dual critique of both the vision of education set forth in Plato's Republic and also of the society of his contemporary Europe and the educational methods he regarded as contributing to it; he held that a person can either be a man or a citizen, and that while Plato's plan could have brought the latter at the expense of the former, contemporary education failed at both tasks. He advocated a radical withdrawal of the child from society and an educational process that utilized the natural potential of the child and its curiosity, teaching it by confronting it with simulated real-life obstacles and conditioning it by experience rather than teaching it intellectually. His ideas were rarely implemented directly, but were influential on later thinkers, particularly Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and Friedrich Wilhelm August Fröbel, the inventor of the kindergarten.

Transcendentalist education

H. D. Thoreau's Walden and reform essays in the mid-19th century were influential also (see the anthology Uncommon Learning: Henry David Thoreau on Education, Boston, 1999). For a look at transcendentalist life, read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. Her father, A. Bronson Alcott, a close friend of Thoreau's, pioneered progressive education for young people as early as the 1830s.

The transcendental education movement failed, because only the most gifted students ever equaled the skills of their classically educated teachers. These students would, of course, succeed in any educational regime. Accounts seem to indicate that the students were happy, but often pursued classical education later in life.

National identity

Education is often seen in Europe and Asia as an important system to maintain national, cultural and linguistic unity. Prussia instituted primary school reforms expressly to teach a unified version of the national language, "Hochdeutsch". One significant reform was kindergarten, whose purpose was to have the children spend time in supervised activities in the national language, when the children were young enough that they could easily learn new language skills.

Since most modern schools copy the Prussian models, children start school at an age when their language skills remain plastic, and they find it easy to learn the national language. This was an intentional design on the part of the Prussians.

In the U.S. over the last twenty years, more than 70% of non-English-speaking school-age immigrants have arrived in the U.S. before they were 6 years old. At this age, they could have been taught English in school, and achieved a proficiency indistinguishable from a native speaker. In other countries, such as the Soviet Union, France, Spain, and Germany this approach has dramatically improved reading and math test scores for linguistic minorities.


John Dewey, a philosopher and educator, was heavily influential in American and international education, especially during the first four decades of the 20th century. An important member of the American Pragmatist movement, he carried the subordination of knowledge to action into the educational world by arguing for experiential education that would enable children to learn theory and practice simultaneously; a well-known example is the practice of teaching elementary physics and biology to students while preparing a meal. He was a harsh critic of "dead" knowledge disconnected from practical human life, foreshadowing Paulo Freire's attack on the "banking concept of education".

Dewey criticized the rigidity and volume of humanistic education, and the emotional idealizations of education based on the child-study movement that had been inspired by Bill Joel and those who followed him. He presented his educational theories as a synthesis of the two views. His slogan was that schools should encourage children to "Learn by doing."[citation needed] He wanted people to realize that children are naturally active and curious. Dewey's understanding of logic is best presented in his "Logic, the Theory of Inquiry" (1938). His educational theories were presented in "My Pedagogic Creed", The School and Society, The Child and Curriculum, and Democracy and Education (1916).

The question of the history of Deweyan educational practice is a difficult one. He was a widely known and influential thinker, but his views and suggestions were often misunderstood by those who sought to apply them, leading some historians to suggest that there was never an actual implementation on any considerable scale of Deweyan progressive education.[citation needed] The schools with which Dewey himself was most closely associated (though the most famous, the "Laboratory School", was really run by his wife) had considerable ups and downs, and Dewey left the University of Chicago in 1904 over issues relating to the Dewey School.[citation needed]

Dewey's influence began to decline in the time after the Second World War and particularly in the Cold War era, as more conservative educational policies came to the fore.

The administrative progressives

The form of educational progressivism which was most successful in having its policies implemented has been dubbed "administrative progressivism" by historians. This began to be implemented in the early 20th century. While influenced particularly in its rhetoric by Dewey and even more by his popularizers, administrative progressivism was in its practice much more influenced by the industrial revolution and the concept economies of scale.

The administrative progressives are responsible for many features of modern American education, especially American high schools: counseling programs, the move from many small local high schools to large centralized high schools, curricular differentiation in the form of electives and tracking, curricular, professional, and other forms of standardization, and an increase in state and federal regulation and bureaucracy, with a corresponding reduction of local control at the school board level. (Cf. "State, federal, and local control of education in the United States", below) (Tyack and Cuban, pp. 17–26)

These reforms have since become heavily entrenched, and many today who identify themselves as progressives are opposed to many of them, while conservative education reform during the Cold War embraced them as a framework for strengthening traditional curriculum and standards.

In more recent times, groups such as the think tank Reform's education division, and S.E.R. have attempted to pressure the government of the U.K. into more modernist educational reform, though this has been met with limited success.

Critiques of progressive and classical reforms

Many progressive reforms failed to transfer learned skills. Evidence suggests that higher-order thinking skills are unused by many people (cf. Jean Piaget, Isabel Myers, and Katharine Cook Briggs). Some authorities say that this refutes key assumptions of progressive thinkers such as Dewey.

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who studied people's developmental stages. He showed by widely reproduced experiments that most young children do not analyze or synthesize as Dewey expected. Some authorities therefore say that Dewey's reforms do not apply to the primary education of young children.

Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers developed a psychological test that reproducibly identifies sixteen distinct human temperaments, building on work by Jung. A wide class of temperaments ("Sensors", half by category, 60% of the general population) prefer to use concrete information such as facts and procedures. They prefer not to use abstract theories or logic. In terms of education, some authorities interpret this to mean that 60% of the general population only use, and therefore would prefer to learn answers to concrete "Who, what, when, where", and "how" questions, rather than answers to the theoretical "which" and "why" questions advocated by progressives. This information was confirmed (on another research track) by Jean Piaget, who discovered that nearly 60% of adults never habitually use what he called "formal operational reasoning", a term for the development and use of theories and explicit logic. If this criticism is true, then schools that teach only principles would fail to educate 60% of the general population.

The data from Piaget, Myers and Briggs can also be used to criticize classical teaching styles that never teach theory or principle. In particular, a wide class of temperaments ("Intuitives", half by category, 40% of the general population) prefer to reason from trusted first principles, and then apply that theory to predict concrete facts. In terms of education, some authorities interpret this to mean that 40% of the general population prefer to use, and therefore want to learn, answers to theoretical "Which and "Why" questions, rather than answers to the concrete "Who, what, when, where" and "How" questions.

The synthesis resulting from this two-part critique is a "neoclassical" learning theory similar to that practiced by Marva Collins, in which both learning styles are accommodated. The classroom is filled with facts, that are organized with theories, providing a rich environment to feed children's natural preferences. To reduce the limitations of depending only on natural preferences, all children are required to learn both important facts, and important forms of reasoning.

Diane Ravitch argues that "progressive" reformers have replaced a challenging liberal arts curriculum with ever-lower standards and indoctrination, particularly in inner-city schools, thereby preventing vast numbers of students from achieving their full potential.

Education reform in the United States since the mid-20th Century

Reforms arising from the civil rights era

From the 1950s to the 1970s, many of the proposed and implemented reforms in U.S. education stemmed from the Civil Rights Movement and related trends; examples include ending racial segregation, and busing for the purpose of desegregation, affirmative action, and banning of school prayer.[4]

Reform efforts in the 1980s

In the 1980s, some of the momentum of education reform moved from the left to the right, with the release of A Nation at Risk, Ronald Reagan's efforts to reduce or eliminate the United States Department of Education. In the latter half of the decade, E.D. Hirsch put forth an influential attack on one or more versions of progressive education, advocating an emphasis on "cultural literacy"--the facts, phrases, and texts that Hirsch asserted every American had once known and that now only some knew, but was still essential for decoding basic texts and maintaining communication. Hirsch's ideas remain significant through the 1990s and into the 21st century, and are incorporated into classroom practice through textbooks and curricula published under his own imprint.

Reform efforts in the 1990s and 2000s

Most states and districts in the 1990s adopted Outcome-Based Education (OBE) in some form or another. A state would create a committee to adopt standards, and choose a quantitative instrument to assess whether the students knew the required content or could perform the required tasks. The standards-based National Education Goals (Goals 2000) were set by the U.S. Congress in the 1990s. Many of these goals were based on the principles of outcomes-based education, and not all of the goals were attained by the year 2000 as was intended. The standards-based reform movement culminated in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which as of 2009 is still an active nation-wide mandate in the United States.

OBE reforms usually had other disputed methods, such as constructivist mathematics and whole language, added onto them.[dubious ] Some proponents[who?] advocated replacing the traditional high school diploma with a Certificate of Initial Mastery. Other reform movements were school-to-work, which would require all students except those in a university track to spend substantial class time on a job site. See also Uncommon Schools.

Contemporary issues

In the first decade of the 21st century, several issues are salient in debates over further education reform:[5]

Funding levels

Although many people have claimed that U.S. public schools are underfunded, there are few countries that spend as much per student on education. However, the United States is well known for huge inequalities in the economics of school districts.[7]

Among developed countries, there is almost no correlation between spending on education and educational performance. Top performers include Singapore, Finland and Korea, all with relatively low spending on education, while high spenders including Norway and Luxembourg have relatively low performance.[8] However, within countries, differences in spending between schools or districts may accentuate inequalities if they result in the best teachers moving to teach in the most wealthy areas.

According to a 2005 report from the OECD, the United States is tied for first place with Switzerland when it comes to annual spending per student on its public schools, with each of those two countries spending more than $11,000 (in U.S. currency).[9] Despite this high level of funding, U.S. public schools lag behind the schools of other rich countries in the areas of reading, math, and science.[10]

According to a 2007 article in The Washington Post, the Washington D.C. public school district spends $12,979 per student per year. This is the third highest level of funding per student out of the 100 biggest school districts in the U.S. Despite this high level of funding, the school district provides outcomes that are lower than the national average. In reading and math, the district's students score the lowest among 11 major school districts—even when poor children are compared only with other poor children. Thirty-three percent of poor fourth graders in the U.S. lack basic skills in math, but in Washington D.C., it's 62%.[11]

According to a 2006 study by the Goldwater Institute, Arizona's public schools spend 50% more per student than Arizona's private schools. The study also says that while teachers constitute 72% of the employees at private schools, they make up less than half of the staff at public schools. According to the study, if Arizona's public schools wanted to be like private schools, they would have to hire approximately 25,000 more teachers, and eliminate 21,210 administration employees. The study also said that public school teachers are paid about 50% more than private school teachers.[12]

In 1985 in Kansas City, Missouri, a judge ordered the school district to raise taxes and spend more money on public education. Spending was increased so much, that the school district was spending more money per student than any of the country's other 280 largest school districts. Although this very high level of spending continued for more than a decade, there was no improvement in the school district's academic performance.[13][14]

According to a 1999 article by William J. Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, increased levels of spending on public education have not made the schools better. Among many other things, the article cites the following statistics:[15]

  • Between 1960 and 1995, U.S. public school spending per student, adjusted for inflation, increased by 212%.
  • In 1994, less than half of all U.S. public school employees were teachers.
  • Out of 21 industrialized countries, U.S. 12th graders ranked 19th in math, 16th in science, and last in advanced physics.

Alternatives to public education

In the United States, Private schools (independent schools) have long been an alternative to public education for those with the ability to pay tuition. These include religious schools, preparatory and boarding schools, and schools based on alternative philosophies such as Montessori education. Over 4 million students, about 1 child in 12, attend religious schools in the United States, most of them Christian.[16] Montessori pre- and primary school programs employ alternative theories of guided exploration which seek to embrace children's natural curiosity rather than, for instance, scolding them for falling out of rank.

Home education is favored by a growing number of parents who take direct responsibility for their children's education rather than enrolling them in local public schools seen as not meeting expectations.

School choice

Libertarian theorists such as Milton Friedman advocate school choice to promote excellence in education through competition. A highly competitive 'market' for schools would eliminate the need to otherwise attempt a workable method of accountability for results. Public education vouchers would permit guardians to select and pay any school, public or private, with public funds currently allocated to local public schools. The theory is that children's guardians will naturally shop for the best schools, much as is already done at college level.

Though appealing in theory, many reforms based on school choice have not led to substantial improvements in teaching and learning.[17] For instance, New Zealand's landmark reform in 1989, during which schools were granted substantial autonomy, funding was devolved to schools, and parents were given a free choice of which school their children would attend, led to only modest improvements in most schools and was associated with increases in inequity and greater racial and social stratification in schools. Similar results have been found in other jurisdictions. Though discouraging, the failure of choice to lead to improvement in student learning often seems to reflect weaknesses in the way that choice is implemented rather than a failure of the basic principle itself.[18]

Barriers to reform

A recent Fordham Institute study found that some labor agreements with teachers' unions may restrict the ability of school systems to implement merit pay and other reforms. Contracts were more restrictive in districts with high concentrations of poor and minority students.[19] The methodology and conclusions of the study have been criticized by teachers' unions.[20]

Another barrier to reform is assuming that schools are like businesses—when in fact they are very different.[21]


Education reform has been pursued for a variety of specific reasons, but generally most reforms aim at redressing some societal ills, such as poverty-, gender-, or class-based inequities, or perceived ineffectiveness. Reforms are usually proposed by thinkers who aim to redress societal ills or institute societal changes, most often through a change in the education of the members of a class of people—the preparation of a ruling class to rule or a working class to work, the social hygiene of a lower or immigrant class, the preparation of citizens in a democracy or republic, etc. The idea that all children should be provided with a high level of education is a relatively recent idea, and has arisen largely in the context of Western democracy in the 20th century.

The "beliefs" of school districts are optimistic that quite literally "all students will succeed", which in the context of high school graduation examination in the United States, all students in all groups, regardess of heritage or income will pass tests that in the introduction typically fall beyond the ability of all but the top 20 to 30 percent of students. The claims clearly renounce historical research that shows that all ethnic and income groups score differently on all standardized tests and standards based assessments and that students will achieve on a bell curve. Instead, education officials across the world believe that by setting clear, achievable, higher standards, aligning the curriculum, and assessing outcomes, learning can be increased for all students, and more students can succeed than the 50 percent who are defined to be above or below grade level by norm referenced standards.

States have tried to use state schools to increase state power, especially to make better soldiers and workers. This strategy was first adopted to unify related linguistic groups in Europe, including France, Germany and Italy. Exact mechanisms are unclear, but it often fails in areas where populations are culturally segregated, as when the U.S. Indian school service failed to suppress Lakota and Navaho, or when a culture has widely respected autonomous cultural institutions, as when the Spanish failed to suppress Catalan.

Many students of democracy have desired to improve education in order to improve the quality of governance in democratic societies; the necessity of good public education follows logically if one believes that the quality of democratic governance depends on the ability of citizens to make informed, intelligent choices, and that education can improve these abilities.

Politically motivated educational reforms of the democratic type are recorded as far back as Plato in The Republic. In the United States of America, this lineage of democratic education reform was continued by Thomas Jefferson, who advocated ambitious reforms partly along Platonic lines for public schooling in Virginia.

Another motivation for reform is the desire to address socio-economic problems, which many people see as having significant roots in lack of education. Starting in the 20th century, people have attempted to argue that small improvements in education can have large returns in such areas as health, wealth and well-being. For example, in Kerala, India in the 1950s, increases in women's health were correlated with increases in female literacy rates. In Iran, increased primary education was correlated with increased farming efficiencies and income. In both cases some researchers have concluded these correlations as representing an underlying causal relationship: education causes socio-economic benefits. In the case of Iran, researchers concluded that the improvements were due to farmers gaining reliable access to national crop prices and scientific farming information.

Digital Education

The movement to use computers more in education naturally includes many unrelated ideas, methods, and pedagogies since there are many uses for digital computers. For example, the fact that computers are naturally good at math leads to the question of the use of calculators in math education. The Internet's communication capabilities make it potentially useful for collaboration, and foreign language learning. The computer's ability to simulate physical systems makes it potentially useful in teaching science. More often, however, debate of digital education reform centers around more general applications of computers to education, such as electronic test-taking and online classes.

The idea of creating artificial intelligence led some computer scientists to believe that teachers could be replaced by computers, through something like an expert system; however, attempts to accomplish this have predictably proved inflexible. The computer is now more understood to be a tool or assistant for the teacher and students.

Harnessing the richness of the Internet is another goal. In some cases classrooms have been moved entirely online, while in other instances the goal is more to learn how the Internet can be more than a classroom.

Web-based international educational software is under development by students at New York University, based on the belief that current educational institutions are too rigid: effective teaching is not routine, students are not passive, and questions of practice are not predictable or standardized. The software allows for courses tailored to an individual's abilities through frequent and automatic multiple intelligences assessments. Ultimate goals include assisting students to be intrinsically motivated to educate themselves, and aiding the student in self-actualization. Courses typically taught only in college are being reformatted so that they can be taught to any level of student, whereby elementary school students may learn the foundations of any topic they desire. Such a program has the potential to remove the bureaucratic inefficiencies of education in modern countries, and with the decreasing digital divide, help developing nations rapidly achieve a similar quality of education. With an open format similar to Wikipedia, any teacher may upload their courses online and a feedback system will help students choose relevant courses of the highest quality. Teachers can provide links in their digital courses to webcast videos of their lectures. Students will have personal academic profiles and a forum will allow students to pose complex questions, while simpler questions will be automatically answered by the software, which will bring you to a solution by searching through the knowledge database, which includes all available courses and topics.

The 21st century ushered in the acceptance and encouragement of internet research conducted on college and university campuses, in homes, and even in gathering areas of shopping centers. Addition of cyber cafes on campuses and coffee shops, loaning of communication devices from libraries, and availability of more portable technology devices, opened up a world of educational resources. Availability of knowledge to the elite had always been obvious, yet provision of networking devices, even wireless gadget sign-outs from libraries, made availability of information an expectation of most persons. Cassandra Bolyard Whyte researched the future of computer use on campuses focusing on student affairs. Though at first seen as a data collection and outcome reporting tool, the use of computer technology in the classrooms, meeting areas, and homes continued to unfold. The sole dependence on paper resources diminished and e-books and articles, as well as on-line courses, was anticipated to become a staple provided by higher education institutions according to Whyte.[22][23]

Notable reforms

Some of the methods and reforms have gained permanent advocates, and are widely utilized.

Many educators now believe that anything that more precisely meets the needs of the child will work better. This was initiated by M. Montessori and is still utilized in Montessori schools.

The teaching method must be teachable! This is a lesson from both Montessori and Dewey. This view now has very wide currency, and is used to select much of the curricula of teachers' colleges.

Conservative programs are often based on classical education, which is seen by conservatives to reliably teach valuable skills in a developmentally appropriate order to the majority of Myers-Briggs temperaments, by teaching facts.

New programs based on modern learning theories that test individual learning, and teach to mastery of a subject have been proved by the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) to be far more effective than group instruction with compromise schedules, or even class-size reduction[24]

Schools with limited resources, such as most public schools and most third-world and missionary schools, use a grammar-school approach. The evidence of Lancaster schools suggests using students as teachers. If the culture supports it, perhaps the economic discipline of the Lancaster school can reduce costs even further. However, much of the success of Lancaster's "school economy" was that the children were natives of an intensely mercantile culture.

In order to be effective, classroom instruction needs to change subjects at times near a typical student's attention span, which can be as frequently as every two minutes for young children. This is an important part of Marva Collins' method.

The Myers-Briggs temperaments fall into four broad categories, each sufficiently different to justify completely different educational theories. Many developmental psychologists say that it might be socially profitable to test for and target temperaments with special curricula.

Some of the Myers-Briggs temperaments are known to despise educational material that lacks theory. Therefore, effective curricula need to raise and answer "which" and "why" questions, to teach students with "intuitive" (Myers-Briggs) modalities.

Philosophers identify independent, logical reasoning as a precondition to most western science, engineering, economic and political theory. Therefore, every educational program that desires to improve students' outcomes in political, health and economic behavior should include a Socratically taught set of classes to teach logic and critical thinking.

Substantial resources and time can be saved by permitting students to test out of classes. This also increases motivation, directs individual study, and reduces boredom and disciplinary problems.

To support inexpensive continuing adult education a community needs a free public library. It can start modestly as shelves in an attended shop or government building, with donated books. Attendants are essential to protect the books from vandalism. Adult education repays itself many times over by providing direct opportunity to adults. Free libraries are also powerful resources for schools and businesses.

A notable reform of the education system of Massachusetts occurred in 1993.

The current student voice effort echoes past school reform initiatives focusing on parent involvement, community involvement, and other forms of participation in schools. However, it is finding a significant amount of success in schools because of the inherent differences: student voice is central to the daily schooling experience because students spend all day there. Many educators today strive for meaningful student involvement in their classrooms, while school administrators, school board members, and elected officials each lurch to hear what students have to say.



In other parts of the world, educational reform has had a number of different meanings. In Taiwan in the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century a movement tried to prioritize reasoning over mere facts, reduce the emphasis on central control and standardized testing. There was consensus on the problems. Efforts were limited because there was little consensus on the goals of educational reforms, and therefore on how to fix the problems. By 2003, the push for education reform had declined.

Further reading

  • Comer, J.P. (1997). Waiting for a Miracle: Why Schools Can’t Solve Our Problems- and How We Can. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Cuban, L. (2003). Why Is It So Hard to Get Good Schools? New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.
  • Darling-Hammond, Linda. (1997) The Right to Learn: A Blueprint for Creating Schools that Work. Jossey-Bass.
  • Dewey, J. and Dewey, E. (1915). Schools of To-morrow. New York: E.P. Dutton and Company.
  • Gatto, John Taylor (1992). Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Canada: New Society Publishers.
  • Glazek, S.D. and Sarason, S.B. (2007). Productive Learning: Science, Art, and Einstein’s Relativity in Education Reform. New York: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Goodland, J.I. and Anderson, R.H. (1959 and 1987). The Nongraded Elementary School. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.
  • James, Laurie. (1994) Outrageous Questions: Legacy of Bronson Alcott and America's One-Room Schools New York.
  • Katz, M.B. (1971). Class, Bureaucracy, and Schools: The Illusion of Educational Change in America. New York: Praeger Publishers.
  • Kliebard, Herbert. (1987) The Struggle for the American Curriculum. New York : Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Kohn, A. (1999). The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and 'Tougher Standards'. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
  • Murphy, J.H. and Beck, L.G. (1995). School-Based Management as School Reform: Taking Stock. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.
  • Ogbu, J.U. (1978). Minority Education and Caste: The American System in Cross-Cultural Perspective. New York: Academic Press.
  • Ravitch, D. (1988). The Great School Wars: A History of the New York City Public Schools. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
  • Sarason, S.B. (1996). Revisiting 'The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change'. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Sarason, S.B. (1990). The Predictable Failure of Educational Reform: Can We Change Course Before Its Too Late? San Francisco: Josey-Bass, Inc.
  • Sizer, T.R. (1984). Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Tyack, David and Cuban, Larry. (1995) Tinkering Toward Utopia: a century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Zwaagstra, Michael; Clifton, Rodney; and Long, John. (2010) What's Wrong with Our Schools: and How We Can Fix Them. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 1607091577

See also


  1. ^ Whelan, Lessons Learned (2009)
  2. ^ E.g. in Paris, on the left bank of the Seine, which served the students of the Sorbonne, even the shop keepers spoke Latin, and the people were notorious political radicals (admirers of Greek democracy or the Roman Republic rather than Monarchists), and Socratic skeptics of the predominant Catholic culture. Similar effects occurred in other European university cities, such as Heidelberg and Pisa.
  3. ^ Educational Economies in the 1800s - K12 Academics
  4. ^ Tyack and Cuban, p. 29
  5. ^
  6. ^ Professor: Smaller Class Sizes Optimal For Kids. All Things Considered, National Public Radio. 24 September 2009.
  7. ^ National Catholic Reporter, May 2, 1997 by John Allen
  8. ^ OECD, PISA 2006. Whelan, Lessons Learned: How Good Polices Produce Better Schools, 2009.
  9. ^ OECD calls for broader access to post-school education and training, OECD, September 13, 2005
  10. ^ Who's No. 1? Finland, Japan and Korea, Says OECD
  11. ^ Can D.C. Schools Be Fixed?, The Washington Post, June 10, 2007
  12. ^ Private Schools Now 33% Off!, Cato Institute, October 18, 2006
  13. ^ Money And School Performance: Lessons from the Kansas City Desegregation Experiment, Cato Institute, March 16, 1998
  14. ^ Catastrophe in Kansas City, December 1995
  15. ^ 20 Troubling Facts about American Education, William J. Bennett, October 1999
  16. ^ / News / Boston Globe / Opinion / Op-ed / Making the case for parochial schools
  17. ^ Whelan, Lessons Learned: How good policies produce better schools (2009)
  18. ^ Whelan, Lessons Learned: How good policies produce better schools (2009). Fiske, Ladd, When Schools Compete (2000)
  19. ^ Frederick M. Hess and Coby Loup, "The LEADERSHIP LIMBO: Teacher Labor Agreements in America’s Fifty Largest School Districts," Fordham Institute, February 2008
  20. ^ Nelson Hernandez, "Some Teachers' Contracts Bind Reforms, Study Says: Agreements in D.C. Region Generally Praised," The Washington Post, Monday, February 25, 2008; Page B04
  21. ^ White, J., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009, Spring). The cyclical rhetoric of educational reform and the rationalization of a failed zeitgeist. eJournal of Education Policy. Retrieved from
  22. ^ Whyte, Cassandra Bolyard. (1989)."Student Affairs-The Future". Journal of College Student Development.30. (1). 86-89.
  23. ^ Whyte, Cassandra Bolyard (2002) Presentation at a Round Table Forum on Higher Education Topics.Oxford, England.
  24. ^

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