How best to reform K-12 education in America is the subject of passionate debate. Lagging test scores, dispiriting classroom environments, and growing fears about our nation’s international competitiveness have inspired a new cadre of reformers searching for ways to modernize and transform the US education system. At the same time, reform efforts-from Common Core and federally mandated standardized testing to school choice and charter schools-have galvanized parents, teachers, philanthropists, and elected officials into joining the discussion. Though a key element needed for success, “how to think” about education reform is often lost in the debate over specific policy programs and proposals.
In “Letters to a Young Education Reformer” (Harvard Education Press, 2017), Frederick Hess distills his knowledge of education reform obtained by working for twenty-five years with school reformers. Inspired by his conversations with young, would-be reformers who are passionate about transforming education, Hess defines and explains what education reform is, and should be. As Hess notes, “I’ve been around for the Annenberg Challenge, the emergence of KIPP and Teach For America, No Child Left Behind, Reading First, the creation of the Institute of Education Sciences, the chancellorships of Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, Waiting for Superman, Race to the Top, the Common Core, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and much more. These letters are my way to share the insights I’ve gleaned, and the lessons I’ve learned.”
In this collection of 21 letters, Hess notes that “reform is more a matter of how one thinks about school improvement than a recital of programs and policy proposals.” In the hope that readers will benefit from his frustrations and realizations, Hess also shares his personal impressions and the lessons he has learned from the significant challenges education reform has faced over the years.
To purchase the book, see https://www.aei.org/publication/letters-to-a-young-reformer/