Finding Models of Reform Excellence

If we’ve learned anything from the education investments of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it is that one of the keys to effective education reform is replicability.  We all seek to improve our schools.  But when it comes to enacting reform, we want some guarantees.  We’d like to know its worked somewhere.  It makes it easier to sell the reform to key constituencies, and it makes it easier to anticipate the improvement you seek.  We want to learn from those who have succeeded.  That’s how we replicate.

Yesterday, we heard Mayor Bloomberg at the National Urban League calling on other cities to emulate the education reforms enacted in New York City.  Under the tenure of Gotham’s Mayor and Chancellor Klein, NYC has a lot to be proud of.  Reform has generated results.  And the kids in NYC’s public schools are benefiting, at least according to the latest round of student assessments.

Bloomberg deserves credit for marketing NYC’s education reforms as the model to emulate.  With most reforms, educators are quick to say that results take time, we need to be patient, and we don’t fully know the extend or the long-term implications.  We caveat the reforms, lower expectations, and generally de-emphasize the results out of fear that the improvement won’t hold.  But not Bloomberg.  His bold declaration was the sort we expect from a business mogul or a seasoned politician.  Bloomberg must be both.  He’s now got the NUL thinking, and he already has mayors like DC Mayor Fenty signing up to adopt the Bloomberg education model.

For those who aren’t willing to invest in the Bloomberg model, the Baltimore Sun offers a second education reform marketing effort, and an unlikely one at that — The Baltimore Schools.

IDing how schools of all shapes, sizes, and such can succeed, Baltimore this week is offering up its formula for success.  The components are simple.  Experienced, veteran teachers.  Extra-curricular activities.  Involved parents.  And a focus on student achievement.  Sounds good to me.  Now we just need to move such lessons beyond the walls of George Washington Elementary.


Bloomberg and Baltimore provide us two sides to the same coin.  And they tell us a clear story.  There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to education reform.  But there are lessons to be learned in all corners of public education.  Cobble together enough of those lessons, and you may just have a comprehensive education reform model that will make a meaningful, long-term difference when it comes to student achievement.

As we are learning these lessons, though, we need to look for opportunities to teach.  Those schools that have reformed and improved.  Those who have implemented NCLB and succeeded.  Those who have IDed a problem and taken a bold step to solve it.  Now is the time for you to step forward.  Now is the time to promote your reforms and talk up your improvements.  The future of our schools depends on it.

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