It's unbelievable to me how slow and stupid school reform is. Our public schools are too large and diverse to solve any problems in a centralized way. We already know that money will not solve problems (we spend more per pupil than tons of countries that have higher test scores). And we already know that success in our current curriculum has no correlation to success in work – for example, Princeton economist Alan Krueger found that having the gumption to apply to Harvard or Princeton is a sign of future success—whether or not you get in doesn't matter.
We do massive programs, like charter schools, only to find out that they perform worse than public school in most cases. The reason for this, of course, is that kids do not need to be in school to learn. Kids can be on their own, at home, playing and they will learn just fine, and homeschoolers outperform non-homeschoolers on national tests.
School reform has to think in the box of the current system because no one is proposing to send all the kids home. The result is that we get preposterous studies like this one, about how interior design affects kid's grades. First of all, this is a great example of how school reform thinks in the box. Why not study if interior design makes happier kids? Why not study if self-esteem goes up with yellow walls? Why are we continuing to study what extraneous factors contribute to test scores when we know test scores are indicators of nothing?
Also, let's just say, for a moment, that we love the idea of teaching to the test, and test scores are everything, and helping poor kids in bad schools have high test scores will save their lives. Are we going to devote money to redesigning public schools? Really? Is this really the best use of our money? I don't think anyone would say yes. So why even bother studying this stuff?
We need more studies that are out of the box. The box is bad. It is outdated. No one likes the box. But the funding isn't there for getting outside the box because the consequences change everything. Most importantly: free babysitting is gone.
So let's just look at the school reform agenda for what it is: what's the best way to preserve the national babysitting program since we are way too scared of the social unrest we'd cause if we told everyone their kids are free to go home and learn how they learn best.