Almost everyone agrees that America's urban schools are a mess. But while this agreement has fostered widespread support for aggressive reform, Frederick Hess argues that much of what ails urban education is actually the result of continuous or fragmentary reform. Hess argues that policymakers have misallocated resources by pursuing the "right" structure or the "best" pedagogy while paying insufficient attention to the more mundane--and more important--questions of how to implement, refine, and sustain a particular approach in their particular district. Previous research on high-performing schools suggests that the best schools are characterized by focus and by an ability to develop expertise in specific approaches to teaching and learning. To help educators and policymakers adopt and nurture a focused agenda, Hess recommends institutional changes that increase the effectiveness of performance outcomes and reduce the incentives to emphasize symbolic reform.
Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar at AEI.
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