Hope and Hubris Spring Eternal

The Blogathon Challenge came and went without me finding a way to work in a quote from the Iowa Model Core that I think of as The Guarantee Clause.  It struck me at the time that  the certainty displayed was awesome, in both the impressive and frightening senses of the word.

From May 2006 Iowa Model Core Curriculum, page 19:

Schools that enthusiastically embrace the guidelines are guaranteed results.  It’s that simple.  If the recommendations made here are adopted extensively, a high school will be armed with new teaching tools to literally transform students, classroom atmosphere, and activities.

Of course, even as those guaranteed results are about to materialize any time now, we are being told that it might not be quite that simple, but it almost is (from Iowa’s ESEA Flexibility Request, page 81): 

School districts that implement the Iowa Core with integrity increase the likelihood that all students become life-long learners, productive adults, and engaged citizens.  Once educators understand the interplay among the content of the Iowa Core, the Seven Characteristics, the characteristics of effective instruction, and the universal constructs, they will be better equipped to create educational environments and experiences that prepare students for college, career, and citizenry in the 21st century.

But wait, there’s more (from page 105):

Therefore, if Iowa (1) operates under on [sic] one set of principles, one tool, and one process for continuous improvement, (2) embeds Response to Intervention (RtI) and Learning Supports for all students, (3) aligns universal systems of support of and rewards for of [sic] all schools, and (4) aligns differentiated support for Needs Improvement (Focus), Priority, and Unacceptable (Focus or Priority for three or more consecutive years) schools, then Iowa will meet our objective of improving the quality of all schools in order to provide an excellent education for all students.

See how easy?

F.A. Hayek tells us that, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”  I wonder if this whole era of NCLB/NCLB Waivers is an exercise in demonstrating how little we know about designing a centralized, statewide or national system of schools.  I think we’ll find that the fact that schools are full of people–people with their own talents, interests, ambitions, values, and preferences, people exercising free will, people who are only human–will make achieving the results anything but guaranteed and simple.

That doesn’t mean that some of the education reform ideas and programs aren’t worth debating and pursuing, but that we should approach education reform with more humility. Top down, centralized reforms can only take us so far in changing the behavior of tens of thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of students living in hundreds of communities, each with their own community values and preferences, around the state.

HT: @johnccarver and @casas_jimmy for “schools are full of people” link.