In their own words: What is ‘education reform’?

Ask how to define the term, both of people who believe in it and those who dislike the movement, and the initial reactions are similar: chuckles, eye rolls, temple rubs and some version of, “It depends on who you ask.”

But since we asked, here’s what some of our interviewees had to say:

Camila Correa Bordeau, executive director of Dallas Kids First:

“It’s people that are OK with change if it’s going to contribute to positively impacting our kids. It’s not sticking to what you know just because it’s familiar. It really is spending the time to focus intentionally on student outcomes. You go to your first board meeting and you’re shocked by the conversation happening and think, ‘How is this going to translate to what’s happening with our students?’ ”

Sponsored Message

Todd Williams, founder and executive director of the Commit! Partnership:

“More money spent on the right things have dramatic outcomes. We need to figure out how to get all kids to come in ready to learn, make sure all kids have an effective educator in front of them, and expect that all kids get some type of post-secondary education and are supported in that journey. It won’t solve all the problems. It won’t feed kids who are hungry, it won’t help kids who have tremendous toxic stress at home due to poverty, but it will at least give them more a fighting chance than they have today. “

Dustin Marshall, District 2 trustee

“The term is being co-opted by political parties to mean different things — negative on the left, somehow akin to the privatization of public schools; and on the far right as a defense of charter schools. What I think about is not accepting the status quo and [instead] using data and best practices and innovation to pilot test new ideas and scale up what’s working.”

Lori Kirkpatrick, former District 2 trustee candidate

“I do not like to use the word ‘reform’ because I feel like it has such a nice ring to it. Reform is about high-stakes testing, school choice and accountability systems like TEI. I’m completely anti-TEI. It’s not well-proven; there’s no good research or data that shows it’s worth its weight, and standardized tests have to keep going in order for TEI to work.”

Audrey Pinkerton, District 7 trustee

Sponsored Message

“At a high level, I support education reform in the sense of working to make schools better, to better educate students, to better prepare them to meet the workforce demands of the next century. The devil’s in the details. What the parents are seeing is that many policies are not working well and not having the intended effect. They look at what’s going on in schools in terms of the loss of good teachers and good principals, and they begin to ask, why is this happening?”

Ed Turner, District 9 trustee candidate

“That’s such a nasty word, especially in the southern sector [of Dallas]. The way I like to think of it is expanding more innovative opportunities for kids, like schools of choice. I like to think of it as accountability on, how do we measure teacher success and effectiveness in the classroom. Change is not easy, but people agree that we need change — whether you’re reform or anti-reform, you agree we need change. Some people just don’t want to call it reform. But what I do know is parents don’t might not call it reform, but parents want quality education. Parents want a positive school environment. Parents want the opportunity to help their children reach their true potential. And one thing I come to find is, the reform community, anti-reform community, all want the same thing, and that’s positive outcomes for kids. They just can’t figure out which vehicle to take to get there.”

Sponsored Message

Justin Henry, District 9 trustee candidate

“No one knows what it is. It’s a nebulous title. Some people use it as a tool to push their agenda, whatever it might be. Others think of it as corporate takeover. I’m an advocate for educational equity. I think everyone who wants to improve education can be a reformer.”

John Hill, Teach for America alumnus and Dallas Kids First C.A.M.P. Fellows director

“It means very different things in different parts of the country. What it is in Dallas is not the same thing as in D.C., Minnesota, Denver or any of these other places. On both sides of whatever the divide is here in Dallas, you have people who consider themselves reformers. Reform is finding a better way to do something, to achieve a shared goal. Maybe the goal is increased test scores, or making sure all students have access to a high-quality education and opportunities. Find 10 people and they’ll all have a different answer.”

Written By
More from Keri Mitchell

Scot Hart: Introducing Bishop Arts to outsiders

One of the interesting stories THE Magazine editor Scot Hart told me...
Read More