Here’s a passage from a recent Washington Post story that caught my attention:
Successful school revivals, the Djouadi story suggests, are often pure luck, propelled by the serendipitous presence of smart and resourceful people above and below the principal at the right moment. If the fall of Saigon had not led Arlington to hire Djouadi to manage an influx of Vietnamese children for the school system, if the School Board had not taken the initiative to lure middle-class families back to Wakefield, if the school had not had a core of experienced and productive teachers who stayed despite its declining reputation, if superintendents Arthur Gosling and Robert Smith had not given Djouadi the extra staff and resources she needed, and if Djouadi had not succeeded in hiring Jackson as guidance director, Obama would have picked some other school to host his speech.
For one thing, I’m glad the article talks about the good work the school board did. Too often school boards are left out of the equation when, in fact, they can have a profound impact on the culture of schools.
Rather than “luck,” though, I think effective school reform is more precisely described by the word “complex.” So much education writing is devoted to describing the one trick that will turn all school around that it’s refreshing to see a story examine the many elements that are necessary for change to happen.
What do you think? Is school reform a matter of luck? Other than a good school board, what things are necessary for it to succeed? –Rebecca St. Andrie