It is simply impossible, Pastorek has come to believe, for a traditional school system, run from the top down by a central administrator, to educate large numbers of poor children to high levels of achievement. “The command-and-control structure can produce marginal improvements,” he told me when we met last month at a coffeehouse on Magazine Street. “But what’s clear to me is that it can only get you so far. If you create a system where initiative and creativity is valued and rewarded, then you’ll get change from the bottom up. If you create a system where people are told what to do and how to do it, then you will get change from the top down. We’ve been doing top-down for many years in Louisiana. And all we have is islands of excellence amidst a sea of mediocrity and failure.”
This is from probably the best article I have read on Education in the general press this year. Balanced enough to include the perspective of Diane Ravitch (with whom I personally disagree):
“The fundamental issue in American education — I say this after 40 years of having read and studied and written about the problems — is one that is demographic,” she told me. Poor children, Ravitch said, simply face too many problems outside the classroom. “If you don’t buttress whatever happens in school with social and economic changes that give kids a better chance in life and put their families on a more stable footing, then schools alone are not going to solve the problems of poor student performance. There has to be a range of social and economic strategies to support and enhance whatever happens in school.”
ALL OF IT is worth reading.