The Bonds of Educational Success

UC Berkeley professor and author, David Kirp, in this Sunday's NY Times suggests that the experiment of trying to run schools like businesses has not met advertised promises. We have not seen dramatic improvements from shuttering low performing schools, leveraging competition and incentives and inflicting industrial standardization processes on pedagogy. It's yet another example of how "best practices" don't effectively adapt across different contexts. Kirp argues, with evidence, that success stores speak instead about improved emotional quality of relationships between faculty and students.  

Every successful educational initiative of which I’m aware aims at strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools. The best preschools create intimate worlds where students become explorers and attentive adults are close at hand.

The emotional quality of relationships is not something most school systems are going to get from most successful business practices. According to Gallup, the large majority of businesses expect to profit specifically as they sustain high levels of employee disengagement. Teaching and learning apparently works by a different dynamic. Hopefully more schools and policy makers will discover this.