Monday, April 24, 2006

"Pathways to Reform" -- why values matter

Here's a great article from the February 2005 issue of Educational Leadership (a publication of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, or ASCD). It's still incredibly relevant, even a year and a half later -- which is an eternity in educational policy and research.

In "Pathways to Reform: Start with Values," David J. Ferrero (director of education research and evaluation at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) delves into the topic of values -- and how values affect the education systems we develop. It's not just an intellectual exercise! According to Ferrero:

"One crucial but often overlooked source of the distinctiveness among high-performing schools is philosophy—the beliefs and values that create our sense of what makes life worth living, and therefore what is worth teaching and how we should teach it. In our drive to be “research-based,” we tend to forget that between the science of learning and the practice of teaching lie important value judgments that color our reading of the research and the implications for practice we derive from it. These value judgments reflect deeply held philosophical worldviews."

Ferrero gives specific examples of the types of schools that have sprung up -- all with widely varying approaches to education -- based on carefully thought-out value systems. He also gives an excellent history on the debates about educational philosophy that have shaped education reform efforts over the past decades.

So if you want to understand how schools can differ in their approach, yet all aim at helping students achieve the highest levels of academic and civic success, then spend a few minutes (okay, more like 15 minutes!) reading this article. It's worth your time!


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