BOSTON -- New reform policies don't help children learn, their teachers do, says a new study that adds another twist to the national discussion of school reform.
Classroom interaction between teacher and student has a greater influence on a youngster's academic accomplishment than complex and expensive improvement packages that promise a magic solution to school problems, the report says.
Parents are advised to exercise choice, not on the broad scale of choosing schools or even school districts as advocated by some, but within the confines of a single school and to ask that their children be assigned to teachers who respect individual learning needs and styles.
Edward Pauly, a New York education researcher and author of the study, found such accommodation in the Newton, Mass., public schools and labeled those options the "Newton Solution."
Mr. Pauly's study, released in Washington last week, promises to stir up some fresh debate about how to reverse the decline in the performance of the nation's schoolchildren. The study, "The Classroom Crucible," advises parents on how to negotiate school bureaucracies in the best interests of their children.
Mr. Pauly, the senior researcher at the Manpower Research Corp., warns parents against relying on big-time school reform for improvements because teachers can subvert policies handed down to them.
He says, "Any education policy -- smaller classes, phonics instruction for reading, strict discipline, bilingual education, English immersion, computer-assisted instruction or anything else -- will take on a different and distinctive form in each classroom that implements it."
According to Mr. Pauly, "Parents can become involved in classroom assignment decisions without disrupting school operations." He offers some guidelines for parents:
*Act in the spring before assignments for the following September are made.
*Consult with other parents and your child's teacher about the teachers in the next grade.
*Call or write to the principal with specific reasons why your child will do better with a certain teacher.