Today I read one of those announcements that come from states from time to time about how they want to hire a head of their schools system who will lead reform. I don’t know whether that is what they really want, but let me simply explain who that person would have to fight in order to actually get any reform.
#1 The Colleges: The colleges prevent change by insisting on prescribing what courses must be taken by any applicant. The result is that no real innovation can take place.
First job for new reformer: Tell the colleges that their admission requirements will be ignored until they change them. No state university can reject all its in-state applicants, so the reformer will win.
#2 The State Board of Education Standards Committee: State Standards are always those set by Harvard in 1892. They must set some new ones that make sense for today or else stop setting standards which would be even better.
Second job for the reformer: Tell the State Board that when new sensible standards are set he or she will listen. Otherwise if its algebra and English literature and multiple choice tests one more time, you will be ignored.
#3 Special Interests: Book publishers, and test makers love the system the way it is. Why? Because they make lots of money on it.
Third job for the reformer. Find a way to convince these special interests to stop fighting change and start leading change. This can be done if the reformer understands what change is needed. That last bit is the hard part.