The School Reformers’ Pledge of Good Conduct

In his book “So Much Reform, So Little Change”, Charles Payne introduces his chapter on implementation failures with a pledge that every school reformer should take. I wholeheartedly agree:

I will not overpromise

I will not disrespect teachers

I will not do anything behind the principal’s back

I will not take part in any partisan personal feuds

I will not equate disagreement with ‘resistance’

I will not put down other programs

I will not expect change overnight

I will take time to study the history of reforms similar to mine

I will not try to scale up prematurely

If I am not in the field myself, I will take seriously what the field workers tell me

I will give school people realistic estimates of how much time and money it takes to implement my program

He then follows this with an incredibly wise chapter on the failures of reform implementation, explaining the all-too-often lament “It was a good idea badly implemented” At some point I might try to summarise his arguments but for the meantime here is the most important part:

“So many efforts continue to proceed in innocence, as if implementation were just a matter of bringing good ideas and clear thinking to the benighted.”

Dear Policy Makers – never act on the presumption that teachers are the benighted. They will eat you; and your policies.

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