Book of the Month

Back to October 2015 Ed Reporter

Book of the Month

The School Reform Landscape: Fraud, Myth, and Lies, by Christopher H. Tienken and Donald C. Orlich, Rowan and Littlefield Education, 2013, $34

Christopher Tienken and Donald Orlich are professors of education at Seton Hall University and Washington State University, respectively. Their book is an analysis of school reform policy over the past six decades, focusing on how we ended up where we are today. They value public education and wish to see it flourish.

The authors demonstrate the harm done by older reforms and the more recent attempts, like No Child Left Behind, Common Core, national testing, and Race to the Top grants. The authors show that most “reform” policies aren’t based on “empirical evidence, but instead rest solidly on a foundation of ideology.”

The pending Congressional reauthorization of ESEA seems to be a continuation of the reformers’ schemes and offers little to no positive change.

Corporations and leftist elites that delve into education are ruining public schools and effectively creating a two-tiered system that is bad for America.

After eviscerating the various schemes that have failed, this book outlines the following points that should guide the future and that would help to separate reality from myth.

  • “Rank and file educators,” teachers and principals, must use their influence to develop strategies to improve the system.
  • Local control is critical.
  • The nation must recognize that “lies about American education ‘lagging’ behind other countries . . . don’t stand up to empirical scrutiny.”
  • Better test results don’t necessarily mean better-educated citizens, particularly because developing test-taking skills often kills creativity.
  • Internationally, test-taking skill and systems of national standards don’t correlate with economic superiority among nations.
  • “Innovation and creativity cannot be mandated from a state-controlled system.”

The authors sum up their arguments, saying, “It is illogical that the country with the best university system in the world can have a failing PK-12 system that needs to be placed under centralized curricular control.” They say that the Common Core standards and mandated testing scheme will result in a standardized curriculum.

They conclude, “Policies that now flow out of Democratic and Republican think tanks and policy conventions have inflicted deep wounds on what is considered by most free countries as the greatest education system on the planet.” In fact, the authors suggest, “It might be time to begin prosecuting people for education malpractice who pass legislation and implement reforms that are untested and without significant benefits to children.”