We're All Bozos Here

A former teacher's contrarian view of the reforms that have to precede "education reform.

Changing the behavioral atmosphere in a school takes tenacity--and sometimes courage. Kids are in many ways more resistant to change than adults. After years of grown-up huffing and puffing about their behavior, it is inevitable that they will challenge another "new" discipline policy. And when administrators actually do take a tougher line, they run the risk of turning passive community support for safe and orderly schools into organized and aggressive opposition from those directly affected by the changes. "We have some parents who appreciate the need for consistent policies even when it impacts their own children," says Rosemount's Larson, "but you always have parents who want control and a safe environment until it's their kid who gets in trouble, and then..."

There are indeed no panaceas in education, and drawbacks emerge whenever reform gets down to specifics, but in the second year of Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan's experiment, the bottom line is encouraging. Embretson, Larson, and Kaler all report that, in Kaler's terms, "The general community still seems to support the changes overwhelmingly." Most important of all, the kids are apparently getting the message. So far this year only 16 have been expelled.

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