New education “manifesto” sparks debate

On October 10, the Washington Post published this op-ed piece by sixteen education executives from K-12 districts around the country:

As educators, superintendents, chief executives and chancellors responsible for educating nearly 2 1/2 million students in America, we know that the task of reforming the country’s public schools begins with us. It is our obligation to enhance the personal growth and academic achievement of our students, and we must be accountable for how our schools perform…

…The transformative changes needed to truly prepare our kids for the 21st-century global economy simply will not happen unless we first shed some of the entrenched practices that have held back our education system, practices that have long favored adults, not children. These practices are wrong, and they have to end now.

It’s time for all of the adults — superintendents, educators, elected officials, labor unions and parents alike — to start acting like we are responsible for the future of our children. Because right now, across the country, kids are stuck in failing schools, just waiting for us to do something.


A number of rebuttals to this manifesto have appeared in the days following its publication. Here are excerpts from three:

  • “As a researcher and a parent, I yearn for an end to the over-the-top propaganda, the slick think tank reports, the educational ‘leaders’ more interested in blaming than in solving, the wasteful sinking of taxpayer money (and educators’ time) into reforms that have been shown not to work, and the stirring films that suggest that the heartbreaking denial of educational opportunities to innocent children can be miraculously solved by the latest fad.” [Dr. Kevin Welner of the U. of Colorado, in the Washington Post]
  • “The problem with the manifesto is its narrowness. On the one hand, I appreciate that district leaders are focused on the levers that they can move, rather than heaving sighs and shaking sorrowful heads at problems (e.g., unsupportive parents) they can do little about… The call for these reforms would be a lot more persuasive if it were shown to be a piece of something larger.” [Dr. Daniel Willingham of the U. of Virginia, also in the Washington Post]
  • “For the poorest among us, the supposed crisis in education is someone else’s problem,  because the families we live in endure crises far more immediate and threatening – eviction from our homes, deportation by ICE, drive-by shootings in our neighborhoods, and the expiration of our parents’ unemployment benefits. Our schools are a source of hope, but here the poverty strikes hard as well, as declining tax revenues mean we have no libraries, no counselors, and rising class sizes. And the favorite strategy of the bureaucrat, school closures, hits the poorest of us the hardest.” [Anthony Cody, Oakland, CA science educator, in Education Week]

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