Even though the New York Times employs David Brooks as a columnist, sometimes they hit the nail right on the head with their education writing. It doesn't happen a lot, but it has been known to happen.
Their editorial from last Monday is a great example. Here's the key passage, at least for me:
"The secretary should focus intently on the dropout factories, the relatively small number of schools that produce so many of the nation’s dropouts. Efforts at especially difficult schools will need to include social service and community outreach programs, modeled on those already in place in the Harlem Children’s Zone in Upper Manhattan."
In other words, let's really make sure that we focus our attention on the schools that need our attention.
In the world of education reform, we spend so much time thinking of ways to reform the entire system when, perhaps, the entire system doesn't need that much reform. After all, as the Times points out, half of the country's drop outs come from 12% of the schools. Rather than focusing on reforming every single school, we could focus on about one in every 10 schools and cut our dropout rate in half. That strikes me, at least, as a pretty good reward for effort ratio.
It's never going to be easy, even if we were to focus exclusively on those schools that most need it. However, addressing the problem directly seems more promising than taking the shotgun approach and hoping we hit something.