The Absolute Essentials for Establishing a Reform Road Map
Education in the U.S. is in dire need of reform. Individuals from within education as well as a slew of other professions all agree: American schooling must change. They may have different reasons for why change is needed, but they all agree that an educational overhaul is definitely a must. However, what that reform should look like is still under debate.
Before embarking on any reform initiative, the reform team must establish a clear framework. This presents all stakeholders with a road map of how the reform effort is likely to proceed. One of the first steps should be to undertake a detailed study of the school’s current processes, procedures, and possibly even the school culture. This will help determine which areas are working well and which areas need improvement. The study will require the participation of all the teachers at the school as well as members of the student body and the community being served. It’s important to highlight early the importance of student and community involvement in reform initiatives, because, without strong student–teacher relationships and school–community partnerships, planned reform will amount to little. The reform team will need to conduct adequate research to determine whether or not a particular reform will be a good fit for the school or district in question. The team may also obtain case studies and personal accounts of implementation for review and consideration.
It’s important to determine the scope or extent of the reform initiative. Attempting a complete overhaul of all the aspects of the way the school works will likely be an exhausting and futile exercise, leading to a lack of confidence in reform as a whole. Embarking on a very small-scale reform effort, however, will be unrewarding to both staff and students of the school, who expect to benefit from the reform effort. Implementing too many initiatives simultaneously can also be counterproductive, especially if the resources of the school have not been adequately taken into account. It’s worthwhile to spend time brainstorming with stakeholders on which reform efforts to prioritize before implementing the initiative. It’s also important to consider whether this reform effort will be conducted in partnership with other schools in the district or in the state. If it is, stakeholders will need to understand why the reform is taking place. Funding advantages could be gained by partnering with other schools, and the value of knowledge sharing in reform initiatives can’t be underestimated.
Budgeting and costing should be attempted during the creation of the reform road map, although many of these figures will require ongoing revision during the implementation of the reform initiative. Abandoning reform efforts on the basis of a lack of sufficient funding may indicate that the team devoted inadequate time to brainstorming cost-effective alternatives. Time spent discussing the budget with all stakeholders may result in parallel fund-raising initiatives, and it’s important to plan for repeated cost–benefit analyses during the course of implementing the reform.
Finally, it’s worthwhile to consider drawing up a team code of conduct to be adhered to by stakeholders participating in the reform process. Before the reform initiative is put into place, establishing ground rules on how and when stakeholders will interact with each other can mitigate tensions that may arise.
Reforming the educational system of an entire country is no small thing, and the planning behind it must not be taken lightly. It will take time and effort and an incredibly amount of research, but working to create a detailed, circumspect plan for reform will be well worth the work.