We were told it could be the “Silver Bullet” to fix America’s lagging high school performance – moving to smaller high schools (around 400 or fewer students).
Since 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been all over small high schools to the tune of an incredible $2 billion. With Gates support, over 2,600 small high schools were opened across the country.
Now, education historian and commentator Diane Ravitch writes that this education fad simply isn’t working out, and the Gates crowd admits it.
Ravitch reports that students in the fad high schools didn’t learn as much math as kids in traditional high schools. Test scores in reading and math came in lower for the boutique high schools. Also, supposed small school advantages in New York City turned out to be due to the fact that the small schools turned away students with learning disabilities and students who were still learning English.
In a remarkable bit of candor, Ravitch writes that while the Gates Foundation deserves credit for honest self-scrutiny of its small high schools program, that, “Most proponents of education reform defend their ideas against all critics, regardless of what evaluations show.”
I wonder – was Ravitch was thinking of Kentucky when she wrote that?
Ravitch’s bottom line – there are no silver bullets in education. Clearly, we need to be wary of those who think there are.