This post marks my seventh anniversary as a blogger. I want to thank those readers who regularly read my twice-weekly posts, those who have dipped into them occasionally, those who have subscribed to the post, and finally those who have taken the time to write thoughtful comments. Nearly 1.4 million viewers from around the world have clicked on to the blog since August 2009. Not exactly viral but, for me, most gratifying.
For the 852 posts I have written since 2009, I have followed three rules:
- Write about 800 words.
- Write clearly on school reform and classroom practice.
- Take a position and back it up with evidence.
For anyone who blogs or writes often knows that sticking to these rules has been no easy task. Yet after seven years, it has been very satisfying. I remain highly motivated to write about policymakers, administrators, teachers, parents, and students–all who inhabit the policy-to-practice continuum–and all who in different ways, with varied ideas, seek to improve schooling.
To me, writing is a form of learning and teaching. The learning part comes from figuring out what I want to say on a topic, researching it, drafting a post, and then revising it more times than I would ever admit so that the post says what I want it to say. Learning also has come from the surprises and mistakes I have found in the suggestions and comments readers post—“Did I really say that?,” “Oops!,” “Sorry, I didn’t expect what you said, “ or “I had never considered that point.”
The teaching part comes from putting my ideas out there in a clearly expressed logical argument, buttressed by evidence, for others who may agree or disagree about an issue I am deeply interested in. As in all teaching, planning enters the picture in how I frame the central question I want readers to consider and how I put the argument and evidence together in a clear, coherent, and crisp blog of about 800 words. When readers send in thoughtful and engaged comments–that is the precious interaction that teachers need for learning to occur–I respond and the act of teaching (and, yes, learning) occurs.
Because of my background as a high school teacher, administrator, and historian of education I often give a question or issue its historical context. I do so, and here I put my teaching hat on, since I believe that current policy-driven reforms and their journey into schools and classrooms are deeply rooted in the past. Learning from how earlier generations of reformers coped with the complexities of improving schools and districts, I believe, can inform current reformers about the tasks they face. Contemporary reformers, equally well intentioned as their predecessors, in too many instances ignore what has occurred previously and end up stumbling and repeating errors that occurred before. These frustrated reformers then blame teachers and principals (or “the system”) for not executing properly their reform-driven policies.
Knowing the historical context is important in understanding the cornucopia of policy-driven reforms that have spilled over U.S. public schools for over a half-century. For those unacquainted with that history, in every decade since World War II, policymakers have sought to use public schools–an essentially conservative community institution–as engines of reform to solve national and local political, economic, and social problems. From ending racial segregation in schools to defending the nation against the Soviet Union to ending poverty to growing a strong economy, national leaders have turned to local public schools to end vexing problems. This steadfast belief in education curing problems has trumped time and again political action in the larger society to alter deep-seated economic, political, and social structures that have created and sustained many of the problems afflicting the U.S. That reluctance to look beyond public schools as the solvent for national problems is just as evident in 2016 as it was in 1950.
In the upcoming year, I will look anew and historically at the policy-to-practice continuum in my continuing effort to persuade viewers that adopted policies are merely words unless put into practice. And because too many reform-driven policymakers are inattentive to what has occurred in past efforts and what occurs daily in classrooms, chances of full or even moderate implementation approach nil. It is that journey from making policy in decision-makers’ suites to K-12 classrooms that has occupied me for decades. And so I continue for another year.
Again, readers, thank you.