For a topic so heavily debated, I was surprised to discover while writing our second Urban Myth-book how little research there was on the effectiveness of multi-age classes.
Anyone reading the literature published by contemporary, upbeat school reformers cannot avoid such phrases as “teacher leaders,” “change agents,” and “dynamic entrepreneurs.” One is bombarded with happy visions of peppy, smart, young teacher leaders replacing tired, ineffective, older staff. Eager change agents swapping places with uninspired principals; and charismatic CEOs succeeding hapless superintendents.
This upbeat rhetoric that idealistic and energetic young teachers and principals receive is that the system, its leaders and bureaucracy, is the enemy, the source of all problems. Individual teachers and principals have to be tough enough to fight in behalf of their students.
This macho message–underscored by a war-like vocabulary of trenches and guerrilla tactics with district bureaucrats—while engaging to read too often diverts reformers’ attention from analyzing commonplace school structures, such as the age-graded school and how it has shaped public attitudes towards education, school culture and classroom practice for nearly two centuries.
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