Teachers and Parents Are Crucial for a Successful Education Reform

"More than half of school reform efforts fail, many as a result of poor implementation. Without buy-in from critical actors such as teachers, administrators and parents, any reform effort – no matter how well-intentioned and conceived – is sunk.", wrote Courtnay Singer in "School by School Reform". With the Philippines' DepEd K to 12, opposition from parents and teachers may easily spell doom to the new curriculum even without the Supreme Court ruling on its constitutionality.

To appreciate the importance of a buy-in from critical actors, one can look at an example that is less controversial than DepEd's K to 12: Giving each student a laptop computer. The Shorenstein Center at Harvard provides a resource for research news and one of its recent articles written by David Trilling, Student learning with laptops: Measuring the effectiveness of laptops in American classrooms, points to a study published in the journal Review of Educational Research. This paper describes a meta-analysis of research on the use of laptops in basic education. It is a a careful and thoughtful examination of various studies that have been published in the area of how one-to-one student laptop programs have affected learning outcomes. The effects on various subjects, reading, writing, math, and science are found to be small yet significant. The most important takeaway, however, is that a teacher buy-in is critical. Trilling writes:
  • Teacher buy-in is critical. Technology alone does not improve students’ test scores. In Birmingham, Alabama, where the one-to-one program was introduced by the local government with “almost no funding or support for curriculum development … or teacher professional development” and little input from teachers, the program failed: Computers in classrooms went largely untouched, became unusable without IT support and the program was abandoned after three years. “Technical, curricular, and pedagogical support for laptop use is an important component of program success.”
  • When teachers are offered strong IT support and training, and when they are involved in decisions about how to roll out a one-on-one program, they become more engaged in the program and confident using the technology. In turn, students are more likely to thrive.
And we all know what happens to a three-legged stool with just one of its legs broken.