Jal Mehta is an Associate Professor in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His primary research interest is in understanding what it would take to create high quality schooling at scale, with a particular interest in the professionalization of teaching. He is the co-editor of the recently released The Futures of School Reform (Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2012), and the author of the forthcoming The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013). He is currently working on two projects: The Chastened Dream, a history of the effort to link social science with social policy to achieve social progress; and In Search of Deeper Learning, a contemporary study of schools, systems, and nations that are seeking to produce ambitious instruction. Jal received his Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Policy from Harvard University.
Futures of School Reform, Spencer Foundation, (2009-2010) This initiative aims to spark an important and lacking national conversation about future directions for school reform. Our effort is motivated by two observations. First and most critically, we think that our current strategies are unlikely to achieve our goals of substantially altering longstanding inequalities of educational opportunity. We have made progress in some districts and states, and there is remarkable work being done in a fair number of schools, but sadly, the reality remains that significant improvement at scale has thus far proved out of our reach. Without a new or better strategy, this situation is unlikely to change. Second, in contrast to the last gathering of this type, the Pew Forum in 1990, there is no clear consensus on what direction would be most promising. The Pew meetings united a diverse set of actors behind standards-based reform; today there are a number of promising efforts underway, but no obviously preferable path.
Futures of School Reform, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, (2008-2011) This initiative aims to spark an important and lacking national conversation about future directions for school reform. Discussion of educational reform today is stuck in three critical respects: 1) our current strategies are insufficient to meet our rightly ambitious goals of eliminating gaps in achievement; 2) our current discussion of the ends of schooling is too narrowly focused around testing to the neglect of other important purposes of education; 3) our current approaches are too removed from ideas in other arenas about how to improve practice and adapt to change. To generate a new round of thinking that addresses these limitations, this initiative will bring together 30 national educational leaders and thinkers with a broad diversity of experience and capabilities (i.e. school leaders, urban superintendents, educational entrepreneurs, technology experts, experts on teaching and learning). This group will engage in a series of intensive structured discussions over two years, following by the production of a written product in the third year. In this volume, working groups of the larger set will lay out five different visions for the future of school reform. Results of the work will be broadly disseminated. This work will be distinctive from other national panels in several respects: 1) its charge will be to think broadly about the future of school reform as opposed to remedying failings of existing law; 2) the committee will be widely diverse in its knowledge and expertise; 3) its mission will be to avoid banal consensus and instead to lay out competing ideas about what a better future might look like. Interim success will be measured by the degree to which the ideas receive coverage in the education press and the broader media; longer-term success will be measured by whether these ideas penetrate educational policy and practice.