Home > Uncategorized > Former Massachusetts Commissioner’s Agrees With Premise of this Blog… We Need to Change Minds! But Doesn’t Appreciate WHOSE Minds Need to be Changed

Former Massachusetts Commissioner’s Agrees With Premise of this Blog… We Need to Change Minds! But Doesn’t Appreciate WHOSE Minds Need to be Changed

An article by Scott O’Connell in yesterday’s Worcester (MA) Telegram and Gazette describes a lecture by former Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Paul Reville that called for a change in the mindset of schools, a call that echoes the ideas the set forth in this blog. In the annual Lee Gurel ’48 Lecture in Education at Clark University, Mr. Reville decried the fact that despite decades of effort, a child’s performance in school is still tied to their parents’ income— not just in terms of metrics based on standardized testing, but on virtually every other metric of well being.

“We should work at continuing to improve schools,” he said, explaining that his intent was not to portray the state’s education reform attempts as fruitless. But the data show that “despite our best efforts, we haven’t been able to erase that correlation.”

Instead of continuing practices that have defined reform in Massachusetts over the past two decades – and in many ways perpetuated an “outdated and outmoded” system of education that originated over a century ago, Mr. Reville asked the dozens in attendance Wednesday to consider a “mind shift in the way we think about public education.”

Specifically, he advocated for a more holistic approach to instructing and nurturing students, one that focuses not just on their time in the classroom, but their time outside it as well.

“The goal is right,” he said of the state’s recent efforts to improve its education system. “We’ve got the wrong delivery system.”

He’s on target in terms of the need for a more holistic approach… but off the mark in his concluding analysis of whose minds need to be changed:

“This isn’t a case where we don’t know what to do,” he said. The hard part, he added, is pushing through change in an industry where the people involved are often unwilling at times to abandon the comfort of conventional practices.

The current time provides an opportunity to do just that, however, as local governments take the reins of education reform while the federal government appears to be backing off, Mr. Reville said.

“We’re at a moment where we need to rethink where we’re going,” he said, “We need a new vision.”

I found myself nodding in agreement until this point… and then shaking my head in bewilderment. The people involved in “the industry” do not need to change their minds. Given the opportunity to forge a vision for how to deliver and measure the what constitutes schooling the teachers in the classroom would envision a FAR more holistic approach than preparing students for standardized tests based on age cohorts. Teachers and building level administrators, though, are seldom given the opportunity to consider anything other than conventional practices because of the accountability system put in place by business minded politicians and parents who fear that anything unconventional might result in the diminishment of SAT scores and thereby limit their child’s chances to get into a prestigious college.

Sorry, Mr. Reville: the people whose minds need to be changed are the “reformers” whose practices, in Mr. Reville’s own words “ perpetuated an “outdated and outmoded” system of education that originated over a century ago.” If Mr. Reville wants to change minds and encourage the need for a more holistic approach to public education he should be talking to the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the hedge funders in the state who want to use test scores as the basis for identifying “failing schools” and persuade them that in doing so they will be exacerbating the social and economic divide in this country. 

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