Education is researched by experts and practitioners perhaps more than any other specific field. Despite a wealth of research that supports each of the following education reforms, it may be a long time until we ever see them widely implemented in U.S. schools. Some of the drawbacks are obvious, but a few are simply mind-boggling.
1. Year-round school. It would be difficult to find compelling evidence that year-round schooling does not increase student learning and retention, yet very few states consider it a reasonable change. This is a burdensome carry-over from agriculture and tourist economies, yet has trouble getting serious traction in most areas of the country.
2. Small class sizes. Research differs on the magic number per class, but realistically anything under 20 students per class seems to be beneficial, not just in Kindergarten, but in all grades.
3. The Finland model. Finland’s education has earned a lot of press of late by touting the success of its reform efforts. The model is complicated, but in essence brings into every classroom a content teacher and a special education teacher. This, matched with smaller class sizes, is a proven effective model that U.S. schools are unlikely to embrace due to staffing costs and availability.
4. Later school starts and activity/nap times. Several respected studies have indicated that students are not naturally wired to be cognitively functional until later in the day. Models which had students begin school at 10:oo am rather than 8:00 am showed great improvement in engagement and attention levels, especially in grades 7-12. Likewise, several studies have also indicated that a period of rest and/or physical activity time following lunch creates similar effects for students in afternoon classes. Since the American school model mirrors American first shift work hours, it’s unlikely we’ll see much widespread change in how the school day is structured.
5. Blended / hybrid classes. The model of schooling in which students spend less time in classes and more time at home, and then interact via technological assistance may be doomed on arrival in the U.S., at least at most grade levels. Since U.S. education is designed to take responsibility for children while parents work, creating a system where students would be expected to be out of school for a greater portion of the day is unlikely to ever get serious consideration in most areas of the United States.
There are, of course, many charters and model schools that are experimenting with these reforms. The trouble is, these schools do not represent an accurate cross-section of the populace as yet, and so many of these reforms would create major economic paradigm shifts, that other less effective reforms will always be turned to in their place. These reforms would need to become tenets of a monumental educational and societal overhauls.