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Volume 25, Number 1
January/February 2009

Professionalism, Partnerships, and Positive Public Discourse

How Ontario built support for its successful school reform strategy

 

While educators in the United States have been struggling with the requirements of No Child Left Behind, around the world there has been a positive shift in thinking about education policy. In the 1980s and much of the 1990s, education reform in many places was driven by the idea that improvement could be created through changes in governance, or through increased testing and accountability, or by threats and punishments. Over the last twenty years we have learned, often the hard way, that these approaches do not bring the desired results. Increasingly, governments and educational leaders are recognizing that the central element in any real improvement must be, as education consultant Michael Fullan puts it, “capacity building with a focus on results.”

From the early 1990s through 2003, two successive provincial governments introduced measures that put pressure on the Ontario educational system and deeply offended teachers. These included changes in tax policy and governance structure cuts in funding, consolidation of districts, and new standards and curricula. The government was vigorously critical of schools and teachers in public, leading to substantial labor disruption. Teacher morale, public satisfaction, and student achievement declined. In short, nobody was happy with the state of public education.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.

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