Before I could find David Kirp’s “The Secret to Fixing Bad Schools,” I received by email and discovered on Twitter a series of enthusiastic praise from friends, colleagues, and like-minded progressives and left-leaning radicals.
So let me be the first to say, “Sorry, but Kirp’s fix is yet another flawed public commentary about the state of schools and the needed education reform.”
Now, briefly, let me count the ways:
(1) The headline reinforces the “bad” schools narrative that keeps the political and public gaze on the school as the sole cause-agent of educational outcomes.
(2) Kirp’s description of Union City triggers the flawed and misleading “miracle” school narrative.
(3) Kirp’s recommendation ignores the scalability problem.
(4) Kirp’s praise of how the school functions reinforces the “no excuses” ideology that claims that a hard-nosed school culture is all it takes to be a successful school.
(5) And most of all, Kirp’s piece continues the school-only picture of education reform that ignores that our schools tend to have two important qualities: They too often reflect the inequity of their communities and perpetuate those inequities.
Social reform that addresses inequity of opportunity must be paired with education reform that also addresses inequity of opportunity. Crying “miracle” to keep the gaze always and only on schools will never create the broader need for real social and educational reform.
I truly have no idea if this school is successful, but most claims in the media of “miracle” schools prove to be either untrue (or at least exaggerated) or not scalable, not replicable.
But I do know that continuing to trigger the narratives outlined above are a failure to recognize that how we discuss our schools and how we frame our reform have been central to why we continue to fail in our schools and our reform.