Reform vs. Transform Public Schools: Our Communities Responsibility

Reform vs. Transform Public Schools: Our Communities Responsibility

Guest post from Essential Class of 2016 participant Matt Pope, reflecting on the February class day on Education. Matt is the RAISEup Texas Senior Program Director at E3 Alliance.

“We don’t need to reform public schools…we need to transform them!” exclaimed Michael McKie, Superintendent of Schools in Hays CISD at the Leadership Austin Essential’s class day on Education.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the two words as follows:

Reform:  to improve something by removing or correcting faults, problems, etc.

Transform: to change something completely and usually in a good way

Our schools and school systems attempt to reform every year, yet somehow we continue to end up back at the same place. We understand that reformation isn’t working and that the only way forward is fundamentally TRANSFORM our school and their associated systems. We need to stop looking through the flashcube and basing what we believe schools should be off of our experiences when we were children. The world is rapidly transforming every second of every day; technology is out date every two years yet schools haven’t changed in decades.

‘Schools are among the very few institutions that have remained almost entirely unchanged for most of this century.’ Judith Aitken

Data from E3 Alliance highlights that by 2020 two-thirds of the jobs in Central Texas will require a college credential. Currently, 28% of our students are completing college and earning a credential within 6 years. That statistic alone highlights the need for massive transformation of our schools for our future workforce and leaders in our community!

Sir Ken Robinson, an English author, speaker and international advisor on education, has defined this transformation as changing the education paradigm. In his Ted Talk, he highlighted what has developed in our schools and what can be done to transform schools for a new world.

Reforming schools is not the answer. To keep fixing what is broken only leads to a bigger broken system. We have to start thinking differently and allowing the system to change without hesitation or pushback based on simple unwillingness to adapt. As members of our community we have to support this transformation. Too many creative, forward-thinking school leaders have tried to transform their schools and are stifled by community pushback. We are so conditioned to expect students to have a report card with numerical grades, a schedule with seven teachers, students grouped in grades by age versus abilities or interest, bells that move students from one learning environment to another, etc. We have to come to understand that if we transform our schools we will not be able to hold on to these relics of school’s past.

There is a solution for our community! EVERYONE should be involved with leading schools to transformation. Join your local school’s PTA, volunteer, run for school board, communicate with your state representatives, and advocate for a better tomorrow for our students, our schools and our community!

NOTE: The opinions of Leadership Austin alumni, faculty members, and guest bloggers are their own, and do not represent an official position of the organization.