There has been a lot of talk this week about former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch’s new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System. Both Steve Inskeep’s article for NPR and Chester Finn’s book review for Forbes have made notable appearances in the blogosphere. According to such articles, Ravitch’s book outlines the ways in which she believes No Child Left Behind has utterly failed to improve America’s education system. Such sentiments indicate a 180 degree change for Ravitch, who was previously a strong advocate for many NCLB policies.
While I’m not savvy on the finer details of Ravitch’s latest arguments (I have admittedly not yet read the book), I am intrigued by a snip it of information on the subject of collaboration that Inskeep introduces in his article. According to Ravitch, NCLB policies created a situation where schools had to compete with each other for resources and, subsequently, had to focus on achieving high test scores since such resources were dispensed on that basis alone. This created an education marketplace where schools now sees themselves as firms that have to beat the competition to avoid being devoured by it. However, says Ravitch, this undermines the whole system. Schools, she notes, should operate “like families,” sharing trade secrets and strategies for success. Collaboration and coordination are necessary for progress.
Thinking on a local level, it is easy to see how New Orleans could benefit from such an ideological shift. From charter schools and the school board to non-profit organizations and university-sponsored institutes, we have an astounding number of groups that are all dedicated in one way or another to achieving one goal: improving the quality of education for our students. There is no doubt that collaboration, including increased communication between groups to allow for more information sharing, would benefit all parties involved. And lucky for New Orleans, there are organizations forming (for example, *shameless plug* the institute sponsoring this blog) that are dedicated to bringing organizations, schools, and policymakers together for collaboration purposes. These types of linkages, I think, have the potential to significantly and positively impact current education initiatives, and can help sustain progress in the years to come. It is just a matter of forming those bonds so that we can fully reap the benefits of such knowledge sharing.
Thus, to finish up my thoughts for today, clearly Ravitch’s comments on collaboration are spot on, and I think New Orleans will benefit greatly from the work of organizations looking to foster such collaborative links if groups take advantage of the opportunities these bonds present.