Kick the tires, avoid hype of reform

Larry Cuban of Stanford offers practical advice

There have been waves of education reform in the five decades that teacher, superintendent, and emeritus professor at Stanford Larry Cuban has been observing and writing about education. The difference now, he says, is that the cycles have become compressed; reforms come and go, financed by advocates and, increasingly, corporate and foundation leaders, who “shape school reforms based on some combination of ideology, best guesses, and hope.”

In his latest book, Cutting the Hype: The Essential Guide to School Reform, which he co-authored with Jane David, Cuban offers a layman’s guide to 23 reforms, from performance-based pay for teachers to charter schools to small high schools, with tips on how to evaluate them and his view on whether they’ve made a difference (some yes, some no – usually mixed). Cuban is a skeptic of ed fads but he’s also open to new ideas. The problem, he said in an interview, is that the failure to engage teachers and principals in the creation of reforms creates a trail of “broken links” from conception in think tanks and legislatures to classrooms.

“If they are not involved in any decisions – and I mean meaningfully involved – then you can’t expect a policy that, if adopted, will be faithfully implemented in the classrooms. It just won’t happen that way at all,” he said.

Now, in California, with further budget cuts coming, Cuban foresees a “period of retrenchment.” The focus should be on reforms that “help teachers teach, expand their capacity and knowledge and skills.”

To see my interview with Cuban go here and here for a transcript. Cuban writes a terrific blog:

1 Comment


  1. Larry Cuban: Don’t Believe the Hype on Education Reform – The Bay Citizen « Parents 4 democratic Schools

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