Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Please don’t wa(i)ve.

by guest blogger, Candice DePrang

The wave is for pepping up a lagging baseball team, showing spirit at a large gathering. It’s not for Governors to circumvent the authority of school boards. Virginia’s newly elected Governor vowed the initiate an appeals panel for rejected charter schools. One such school, proposed by a literacy specialist and school counselor, is planning for an extended school year and the International Baccalaureate program. While the latter intimates high standards – certainly a criterion that most schools should possess – the former represents one of many reforms with a lack of evidence supporting results.

In a report published by the Laboratory for Student Success that synthesized the existing studies concerning extended school days and school years, the results proved inconclusive. “The research literature indicates that time is a necessary but insufficient condition for improving achievement. The crucial issue is how time is used, with quality of instruction being the key.”

The concern, then, rests with reform for the sake of reform. The education community compromises its integrity when it adopts an unproven innovation and then claims that this change is better, certain to improve already existing establishments.

An appeals panel in itself sounds like democracy – checks and balances, right? A charter school not accepted by the school board is entitled to know why their application did not get the green light. What’s equally as important, though, is that a school board or elected official not simply waive through charter schools – nor any other innovation – in the name of reform. School leaders must support these innovations with evidence before they label them knowledge, and begin to use them as reforms instead of waiving rigorous research in hopes of change.

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