I have been blessed with a few decades worth of work in education policy, and I have never seen a moment with more potential.
While it is possible and valid to reflect on the last twenty years and be disappointed that we didn’t make blistering-fast progress, it’s just as valid to be proud of the accomplishments we have made: reliable information about school performance, better evidence about key factors in school success, and the emergence of a whole new set of education choices that show what is possible.
Teachers have been the engines behind the best of what has transpired in the past two decades, and we rely on their initiative to create the best models of schooling going forward. This is as it should be.
In most professions, those who specialize in their techniques attract clients drawn to their work and success. In short, they can bring their skills to the marketplace and succeed there. In schooling, too, many moons ago, this was the case. It was teachers who created the design of a local school meant to serve the students in a particular area.
In our broader public-education sector, however, we gradually eroded this leadership role for teachers in the early part of the twentieth century. That was a loss. But today, that role is resurging, and we must see our “five-star” teachers and school leaders—not state policies—as those will drive success.
At the end of the day, success in schooling happens at the school, as a function...