How to Reform Schools "Slow and Steady" Wins the Race

August 15, 2016




Featuring:  David L. Kirp, University of California, Berkeley

When: 14:15 - 15:30, 6 September 2016

Where: Lille Auditorium, Lauritz Meltzer Hus, Fosswinckels gate 6





In the US and elsewhere, self-styled reformers have focused on "disrupting" public education
with strategies borrowed from the market, including expanding charter schools (publicly funded
but independent of local school boards), to compete with traditional public schools, and holding
teachers accountable for students' test results. But the evidence doesn't support this marketdriven
approach, and the remarkable success of a number of districts in adopting a continuous
improvement model, indicates that public education isn't broken.


Kirp also writes:



At all levels, American education is at a moment of change and challenge. This lecture will survey the landscape.


The US lags behind the Scandinavian nations in providing early education (ages 3-5), but the number of children served has steadily increased in the past decade. Since this is a priority issue for Hillary Clinton, anticipate a massive expansion of those programs if she is elected. The challenge is to deliver high-quality programs for all children.


K-12 public education is criticized as irremediably broken—the only way to provide a good education, the critics insist, is by creating alternatives—“charter schools” and vouchers—that offer parents greater choice. But successful school systems show that steady improvement is the wiser course.  


The US higher education model was once the world standard-setter—no longer. As government support diminishes, public universities have to find other sources of revenue. Tuition has dramatically increased, as has student debt. What’s more, the high dropout rate—nearly half of undergraduates don’t graduate—is a source of great concern.


The question-and-answer session that follows the guest lecture will provide ample opportunity to discuss the relevance of the American experience.


Speaker Bio

  • Professor of the Graduate School, UC Berkeley

  • Senior Fellow, Learning Policy Institute

  • Contributing Writer, New York Times

  • Twitter: @DavidKirp

David L. Kirp is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, a member of the National Academy of Education, a contributing writer to the New York Times Sunday Review and a senior scholar at the Learning Policy Institute. In his seventeen books and hundreds of articles, he has mainly focused on education and youth policy, spanning the age range from cradle to college and career.


Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for
America's Schools
, his most recent book, chronicles how a poor urban school district has brought Latino immigrant children into the education mainstream and what nationwide lessons can be drawn from this success. It was selected as the outstanding book of the year by the American Education Research Association and selected as one of the forty outstanding books on education in the past 50 years (​Education Classics, 2016).


A former trustee of Amherst College, he has worked with policymakers at all levels of government, as well as foundations and nonprofits; he has lectured at a host of universities and delivered the keynote address at many national conferences. In 2008-9, he served on President Barack Obama's transition team, where he drafted policy agendas for early education and community schools. Earlier in his career he was the founding director of the Harvard Center for Law and Education and an associate editor at the Sacramento Bee. Currently he serves on the boards of Friends of the Children and Experience Corps East Bay, is on the policy advisory council of the Economic Policy Institute, the Campaign for College Opportunity and Common Sense Media; he is also a writing tutor for middle and high school students at 826 Valencia.


Lecture poster



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