From my earliest days of paying attention to education in Kentucky in 1994, I’ve heard a ton of stories about how this or that education innovation was going to do great things for our kids. For more than 20 years, I have heard far too many poorly researched and documented claims about education reforms that really never worked. Some of those reform ideas have been tried again and again as educators conveniently ignored the past history of failures.
So, I think I can be excused for being a bit cautious about current announcements concerning “new things” schools are trying to do to improve themselves. Too often, the ideas are not new, and they already have a troubled history.
Thus, a recent article in the Springfield Sun (Kentucky) caught my eye a few days ago. In “WCPS shines with grant” the Sun talks about how a grant program from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that started in 2011 is supposedly helping Washington County public school teachers improve through both a literacy design collaborative and a similar collaborative effort in mathematics.
Sadly, such collaborative efforts are a really old story in Kentucky. Collaboration processes were pushed from the early days of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, nearly a quarter of a century ago.
For example, the concepts of collaboration and development of group process skills are mentioned in multiple places in an early KERA document called “Transformations: Kentucky’s Curriculum Framework, Volume II,” which made its first appearance in 1993 in hard copy. Collaboration is mentioned in this early version of the document in multiple areas such as on Pages 27, 30, 36 and 38. An entire section on “Group Process Training” begins on Page 41.
A somewhat more recent version of Transformations is available online here. This updated version talks about collaboration in multiple places such as Pages 26, 27, 30, 37, 38, and 207. The section on “Group Process Training” remains, also starting on Page 41 though this is a different document.
My point is that there has been a strong push for collaborative efforts in Kentucky’s schools for decades.
So, I have to wonder how Washington County schools missed out on this reform idea up until now. And, even more importantly, I have to wonder if this idea will somehow work out better, this time. Despite what the news report says, there is reason for concern, yet again.