Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

Education reform requires more than a quick fix, alum writes

For Jerry Wartgow (PhD ’72 education), rapid reform in education is about as effective as a band-aid on a bullet wound.

Rather, he says that the most important thing in achieving successful school reform is also the simplest: time.

Wartgow is the author of Why School Reform Is Failing and What We Need To Do About It: 10 Lessons from the Trenches (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2007). The book outlines the necessary steps for successful school reform based on a synthesis of theory and experience.

The former superintendent of Denver Public Schools and a seasoned classroom leader, Wartgow calls on his 40 years of experience “in the trenches” to offer practical solutions to the problem of public education reform.

Wartgow sets a tone of pragmatism and discipline with the first lesson: “There are no quick fixes or silver bullets.”

“It’s going to take much more than another round of enthusiastic promises, quick fixes, and more legislation to make meaningful improvement in student achievement,” he writes.

Setting high expectations, heeding the lessons learned from past failures and collaborating with education stakeholders are some of the ways we can initiate successful school reform, Wartgow says.

Wartgow not only outlines past failures — failures that are often the unintended consequences of well-intentioned people — but also offers a road map of where and how to move forward.

He concludes that although it is slow, hard work, meaningful educational reform is achievable — and that it has to be, as the stakes are far too high for any other alternative.

“Without empowered citizens, there is no future,” he writes. “With empowered citizens there are no limits.”

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