So, what’s the Solution?

Two years ago, I had a conversation with a former colleague and we discussed various topics in K-12 education. When the topic of education reform entered the dialogue (i.e. charter schools, school choice, vouchers, and alternative certifications), she stated that while she understood people expressing their concerns and speaking out, it didn’t truly address the problem. She then asked, “so, what’s the solution?” I sat quietly as this was an excellent question.

While sitting in my seat, I could only generate the following response in my head “the solution is extensive, complex, historical in nature, inequitable by design, and what’s needed is not presently occurring at a meaningful magnitude.” Usually, when cultural memory is absent from the debate, conversations such as this leave me drained and frustrated, so I opted to just “zip it.”

Rethink and Reflect: Do you have an influx of reforms in your community? Are they having a positive and long-term impact on the children in which they purport to serve?

If you have been in K-12 education, you know reforms have saturated the landscape with no signs of subsiding in the near future.

Reforms should do something so drastically different that there is no comparison because the reform is the solution. If it produces similar results (or worse), it is not reform. Let me say that again- if it produces similar results (or worse), it is not reform!  In other words, if charter schools, high stakes assessments, school closures, and vouchers were truly delivering meaningful solutions in school districts across America, we would have no reasons to cross-reference it with public schools. So, research consistently provides evidence that current reforms are not delivering on the promise. So, what’s next? Keep reading!

Below are examples of underutilized solutions in K-12 classrooms and schools. The chart was extracted from the article What Instead? Reframing the Debate about Chater Schools, Teach For America, and High Stakes Testing by Dr. Julian Vasquez-Helig. I included real-time examples of his recommendations.

Traditional Education Reforms

Community-based, Demogratically Controlled

Teach For America

Collaborative University/community partnerships An example is Shelby County schools and the University of Memphis River City partnership, and American University’s program

Corporate for-profit charters

Community Schools Lebron James’ I Promise School In Akron, Ohio is an excellent example of a community school.  His school is not a charter but a traditional public school

Value Added Teacher Evaluation Model

Peer assistance and Review.  Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland implements a PAR model to support teachers and has done so since 2000.


In hindsight, my answer to the question when asked:

“What’s the solution?” We should strive to provide individuals with solutions to address the historical and systemic, racial, and institutional inequities in our country. If we don’t do this, we will have a plethora of reforms that are band-aids and 100 years from now someone will pose the question, “So, what’s the solution?”