The Missing Link in School Reform

The Missing Link in School Reform

In trying to improve American public schools, educators, policymakers, and philanthropists are overselling the role of the highly skilled individual teacher and undervaluing the benefits that come from teacher collaborations.

By Carrie R. Leana Fall 2011 from Stanford Social Innovation Review

Value-added modeling is one example of a larger approach to improving public schools that is aimed at enhancing what economists label “human capital”—factors such as teacher experience, subject knowledge, and pedagogical skills. If a teacher’s human capital can be increased, films like Waiting for Superman argue, the United States would be well on the way to solving its alarming educational problem. But the research my colleagues and I at the University of Pittsburgh have conducted over the past decade in several large urban school districts suggests that enhancing teacher human capital should not be the sole or even primary focus of school reform. Instead, if students are to show measurable and sustained improvement, schools must also foster what sociologists label “social capital”—the patterns of interactions among teachers.


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