Monday, July 26, 2010

The curse of the early adopter

If there is one consistent lesson that one gleans by studying school reform over the past century, it is the danger of taking a good idea and expanding it rapidly, spreading it thin. What is stunningly successful in a small setting, nurtured by its founders and brought to life by a cadre of passionate teachers, seldom survives the transition when it is turned into a large-scale reform. Whether charter schools are a sustainable reform, whether they can proliferate and at the same time produce good results, is a question yet to be resolved. Whether there is the will to close low-performing charters remains to be seen. Whether there is an adequate supply of teachers who are willing to work fifty-hour weeks is unknown. The biggest unknown is how the multiplication of charter schools will affect public education.
The Death And Life Of the Great American School System by Diane Ravitch
Chapter 7, penultimate paragraph.

We early adopters think it should be otherwise. That our early success should readily replicate. We do not see ourselves as exceptional, so why not? Our greatest sin is hubris. But we aren't the worst sinners. At least, we react to evidence and try to keep our beliefs consistent with the data.

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