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Group Explores the Futures of School Reform

What might the future of school reform look like?

For the next seven weeks, the Futures of School Reform -- a group organized at HGSE and consisting of leading academics, policymakers, practitioners, and business leaders -- are sharing their ideas for restructuring education in commentaries published by Education Week.

"The ultimate hope is to broaden the ways in which we think about the possibilities for school reform, so in a sense each of these commentaries lays out a vision, but in laying out a vision, it challenges how we do things now," says Assistant Professor Jal Mehta. "Our hope is that as everyone, the public, policymakers, foundations, students, and teachers think about what might be next. Some of the key assumptions about what it takes to fix education will be challenged. The commentaries try to open up these issues and take new directions."

Some of the topics featured in the commentaries include changing the development of school from a "factory model" to a knowledge profession, marrying school and social reform, and looking at the implications of "unbundling" the teacher profession into different roles.

Three years ago, Mehta and Professor Robert Schwartz developed the group out of a sense that existing efforts were unlikely to reach the nation's goals of equal opportunity for all students. As they highlight in their introduction to the Education Week series, there are many more good schools than good school districts, and thus the question is how to generate needed improvement at scale.

Over time, the group sought to examine models from other nations and other sectors as a way of broadening the American conversation about school reform.

The initiative was modeled in part after The Pew Forum on Education Reform, a group that Schwartz helped launch in 1990. That group, which similarly brought together a range of leading thinkers, policymakers, and practitioners, was a significant spur towards the development of standards-based reform.

This time, Schwartz explains, there is not one clear direction to unite around, and thus the goal of the group was to illuminate a range of possible paths for the future.

Professors Richard Elmore and Mark Moore, Lecturer Elizabeth City, and Senior Lecturer Paul Reville, Massachusetts secretary of education, are among the 30 participants involved in the group which meets twice a year.

The goal of the Education Week series and its accompanying blog is to galvanize a public conversation around future directions for schooling.

"If we keep doing what we're doing, we're not going to get there," Mehta says. "The goal of this project was to open up some new paths for the future, and to have a real national discussion about which of them is most likely to create the kind of schooling that we aspire to. Please visit the blog and join the conversation!"