Revolutionary Education Reforms…That Aren’t

Before the legislature solidifies Governor John Kitzhaber’s revolutionary new reform plan for education, let’s look back at the first big education reform of which he was a part.

In 1991, then Senate President Kitzhaber voted for The Oregon Education Act for the 21st Century. It was full of new committees, new high school CIM and CAM tests (which were eventually abandoned), and a promise from the legislature that it would produce “the best educated citizens in the nation by the year 2000.” So, how did that work out?

In both 2010 and 2011, Education Week’s Annual Education Report Card gave Oregon a grade of C-. It ranked our public education system 43rd in the nation―not exactly the best.

Now, Governor Kitzhaber has an even bigger, more revolutionary reform, not just of Kindergarten through 12th grade, but of pre-K through graduate school. It’s called the Oregon Education Investment Board.

Here is what we said about the 1991 “revolutionary” reform at the time:

“…[T]o be ‘revolutionary,’ educational change must be systemic. It must reform the system, not just add to it. Oregon’s educational reformers are unwittingly legitimizing the very system that needs reform. Well-meaning politicians have once again increased state control over education in order to mandate desirable goals. The Oregon plan provides the nation with an important lesson in reform: how easy it is to fall into the bureaucratic trap of good intentions.”

This could be just as easily said about the current misguided reform efforts. It’s time to stop increasing state control over education and start moving in the other direction.


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