Review: The Question of the Student in Educational Reform

Originally published in Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide by Adam Fletcher (2004) Olympia, WA: SoundOut.

Review of “The question of the student in educational reform,” by DP Ericson & FS Ellett. Published in 2002 in Education Policy Analysis Archives 10(31).

By recognizing that students are “casually central” to education reform, Ericson and Ellett provide vital rationale for student inclusion in school success.

This paper thoroughly explores the role of the student in schools currently, exposing how students may actually undercut the intent of education reform, and further, how current reform efforts might actually be promoting mediocrity rather than excellence in schools.

The authors then identify a variety of pathways for student inclusive school reform, challenging the conceptual framework of the current educational reform movement.

“In pursuing the goals of educational reform over the past several decades, educational policy makers have focused on teachers, administrators, and school structures as keys to higher educational achievement. Yet… students are as causally central as educators in bringing about higher educational achievement” (p1).

Ericson and Ellett pull no punches in this comprehensive exploration of the role of students in schools today. By providing a thorough examination of current reform efforts and intentions, the authors place the necessity of student inclusive school change in the center of any movement for education excellence.

“It is the students – their goals, motivations, and conceptions of the good life – that may well prove to be the undoing of the educational reform movement” (p2).

After questioning the reasons that students can interact with adults in schools, the authors provide a seemingly radical formula for educational reform: abandon all attempts at rewarding students (grades, degrees, diplomas, etc.)(p21).

The authors offer a detailed philosophical analysis of current students roles that pivotally recognizes their central role in school change.

As Rubin (2003) noted, “Ericson and Ellett aptly describe the need to bridge the effort of reformers with the experiences of students.”

This is especially important to meaningful student involvement in school change, and the concept is deeply indebted to this particular article.

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Published by Adam Fletcher

Adam is the founding director of SoundOut. An author, speaker and consultant, he has worked with K-12 schools, districts, nonprofits and others for more than 15 years. Learn more about him at http://soundout.org/Adam

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