Many of the reform efforts being proposed for formal education in the United States are misaligned in both approach and content. Some among the politicians, critics and entrepreneurs suppose their experience in making policies, criticism or money equips them also to be qualified in educational reform as well. However, many of their proposals are not supported by either experience or evidence in education. Further, popular business models that seek to quantify and put a price on the intricate and interrelated activities of education are harmfully reductive and defective. Their dominant and unexamined materialistic values have been destructive in many areas of society, as we have experienced in recent and ongoing financial crises that threaten the stability of the world. Their ideological framework and policies threaten to further jeopardize, diminish and devalue education. Societies and governments that put private gain over public welfare will suffer and decline in the end.
Education reform is an extremely complex process, which to some degree affects and is affected by every community and institution in this country. Education influences them and the individuals that compose them, and they in turn influence education. Educational systems have their own internal individual, community and institutional components, which interact in dynamic and multifaceted ways with one another. Without some understanding and control of all these internal and external factors and their interplay, educational reforms that may bring short-term benefits, result in long-term costs, as happened with the industrial reforms and the environmental health of our planet.
Education is facing many problems at present. We should try to face these challenges with a united front. Many questions need to be answered fully and frankly. What are the problems with education? How do we explain and deal with the differences of opinion about what should be done with these problems? What are the pertinent facts related to needed educational reforms? What principles should guide us in our seeking reform? What are some reasonable solutions based upon these facts and principles? How can we begin to reform education in a systematic, sustained and constructive way? How can we ensure that all education programs are held to high and appropriate standards?
Furthermore, how can we identify the best indicators and predictors of good quality teaching? What reliable and valid measures can be agreed upon to improve teaching and learning? What is the evidence that supports the assertions that both teacher education and education in general need to reform and that the recommended reforms will actually help and not harm? Throughout this book, we will explore some answers to these questions in an effort to improve education.