“The education reform movement as we have known it is over. Top-down federal and state reforms, along with big-city reforms have stalled. The political winds for education change have shifted dramatically. Something has ended, and we must learn the lessons of what the movement got right—and wrong.”

So writes Van Schoales in “Education Reform as We Know it Is Over. What Have We Learned?”

With some 30 years as a reform leader, he helped fund several non-profits, was the executive director of Education Reform Now, and more, including his current position as president of A+ Colorado.

Here’s some of what this education reformer says now:

“The era of inspiration, edicts, and coercion from Washington to improve our public schools is in the past. The Every Student Succeeds Act is a paper tiger with no new funds or accountability for results. The U.S. Department of Education under Betsy DeVos has dismantled efforts to push states to improve school systems while tainting all education reform with a far-right agenda for vouchers as it defunds public education. Yet a growing number of high school graduates are not prepared to work or to continue their education…

We had more changes in federal and state education policy designed to improve achievement since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001 than since the civil rights era. We had a broad bi-partisan political coalition with Ted Kennedy and George W. Bush. Barack Obama and Arne Duncan [who] poured unprecedented billions into pushing the system. We focused on 21st century outcomes, not fuzzy 20th-century inputs. We thought we could change it. We were right, and we were wrong…

Reformers (myself included) led an unneeded assault on the existing education force with ham-handed teacher evaluations and a focus on getting rid of poor performing teachers. In an attempt to modernize the profession, we ended up losing the hearts and minds of a generation of educators. It is hard not to notice the wave of teacher strikes aimed exclusively on securing more resources for existing systems…”

And after all these many years of mandated reforms, we’ve ended up with:

  • Billions of tax dollars flowing from traditional public schools to charters and vouchers.
  • Many schools left with too few libraries/librarians, counselors, and nurses.
  • Standardized tests still holding sway, swallowing up countless hours of instruction.
  • Data remaining king and the basis for school and teacher evaluations.
  • Costly ed tech and personalized learning falling far short of its promise, with no end to the spending spree.
  • Educator morale plummeting and few college students opting for teaching careers.

Thus, Schoales proposes that that ed reformers take a hard look at their many failings and listen more to such stakeholders as teachers, principals, and students before moving forward.


Already Senator Ted Cruz wants to rebrand and expand school choice and court new allies. To accomplish this, he’s not only pushing Education Secretary DeVos’s recent $5 billion tax credit scholarship bill, he’s introduced the “Education Freedom Scholarship and Opportunity Act” providing a $10 billion tax credit for taxpayers who donate to privately funded scholarships.

Cruz calls it “a victory for school choice.”

Uh, but what about Schoales saying that “the education reform as we know it is over…?”