“Education reform” is a concept educators are well familiar with and not ashamed to take on. In schools across the country, educators are continually assessing. They assess student progress. They assess curriculum and educational materials. They assess the validity and usefulness of data and tests. And, yes, they even assess their own successes and failures.

In recent years, “education reform” has become a buzzword in education policy circles that is offered up as the prescription to a failed public school system. Each user’s expression of intent is different. Some see reform as an entrée into a wider discussion about charter schools and of school choice broadly. Others use it to more specifically address the unique challenges educators face at the district, school building, and classroom level. And, recently, “reform” has become the abbreviation for models of change outlined in federal regulations from the U.S. Department of Education.

Regardless of the context, the underlying message of “school reform” remains the same: public schools need fixing. NAESP, along with many allies from education organizations representing all facets of public education, reject the knee-jerk assumption that all schools need “fixing.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t have serious, and real, discussions about what is and isn’t working in our schools.

NAESP knows that real reform comes in many forms and is ever changing. For instance, reform can focus on a school’s culture, curriculum, staffing, student demographics, technology, facility upgrades, etc. In recognition of the Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, we invite principals to use the comments section below to highlight some of the efforts your school has made to “reform” to address your community’s needs. We ask you to respond to three points:

  1. Why was the change needed?
  2. How did the change come about?
  3. What benefits have you seen since implementing the change?

As advocates for elementary and middle-level principals, NAESP must explain to policymakers what is in the best interest of principals. As educators, we ask you to help us spread the word about what is really happening in schools. Together, we can spotlight the positive and underscore what works.

Changes

In our school, we are continually assessing what we are doing and making changes to improve the quality of our students' experience. This year, we implemented several changes in our school (grades 4-5), including beginning every week with a whole-school meeting, and revising the schedule to allow teachers time to schedule math and literacy blocks, as well as scheduling flex/help times twice a week for 5th graders, and a weekly time for "Open Circle" (our social competency curriculum) that allows all teachers, including specialists, to participate. These changes were possible because of some additional staffing that was worked out with the other schools in the district, and have had good results so far, both in terms of strengthening our school community (improving the way students treat each other and giving us a forum to strengthen students' sense of belonging and safety), as well as strengthening academics. I do not think there is any one formula for improving schools, nor do I think that all schools are failing (although I do think that every school should be working continuously for improvement). When you really analyze the international tests, what they primarily show is that we have a two-tier (or more) system of education in this country, with many excellent, high-achieving public schools, but a disadvantaged lower tier with students who are not achieving. The solution, I believe, lies primarily in societal changes -- schools simply cannot successfully fight societal trends and inequities.