From pg. 211 and 234 of The Right To Learn:
If school-level reforms continue only by waiver and exception, they will surely evaporate in a very short time, long before good schooling spreads to the communities where it is currently most notable by its absence.
Those at the front lines of inventing more successful schools have little access to the bureaucrats who regulate from offices far away, and who, in turn, typically believe they have little to learn from the real-world work of teachers and students.
O.k. — so that’s my big fear for Beacon and the schools like Beacon. If we are a revolution by exception, then are we sustainable? Or do we merely exist on the periphery, doing right by the kids we get, but also susceptible to every political shift? I feel good that what we do at Beacon is right, but how does that spread? How does it survive?
Mike Lupinacci, an former colleague at Beacon and current principal of Central Park East Elementary School, once said that "If you want exceptional schools, you have to make exceptions." And while I agree, given the current political landscape, I also wonder how systemic change ever happens.
I used to think that if a small, progressive group of schools did things so well that their results could force larger change. The last five years have convinced me that is naive. I’ve also thought, in my darker moments, that the system was corrupt, and all we could do is preserve Beacon and hope other folks preserved what was good about their schools. That path is bad for Beacon and bad for the system.
And honestly, I don’t have the time for the entire high-stakes testing movement to run its course. I don’t want Beacon to get ruined in its wake. And that’s a lot of Darling-Hammond’s point, too.
But the question is how do it, politically… not pedagogically. That’s the tough nut to crack.