More than halfway through his term, President Bush this week has finally gotten around to presenting an agenda for the nation's 110,000 public schools -- an agenda that, he hopes, will justify his promises to be the "education president."
Alas, anyone familiar with the history of education reform -- or even anyone who bothers to read "The Classroom Crucible," a newly published book on the subject -- knows that the program Bush announced yesterday probably won't make much difference where it really matters -- in the classroom.
The problem is simple. Top-down reform, whether in the form of national testing, more federal research or the invention of "new" public schools, always crumbles into irrelevance before it reaches the only target that counts -- the students in the classroom. As Edward Pauly, author of "The Classroom Crucible," puts it in his "law of education policy": Policies applied to classroom activities are thoroughly reformulated by the actions of teachers and students in each classroom.