The nation's most important education policymakers are holding news conferences these days. President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have announced that they want states to strengthen their standards so more students will be ready for college. Dozens of governors have signed on to a plan to align their states' required high school courses so all graduates are prepared for the shock of big papers and two-hour exams at the college of their choice.
Yet in my experience, the most effective work getting high-schoolers ready for higher education is being done by classroom teachers in a thousand different ways as they adjust their rules and experiment with ideas. The innovative teachers I know would laugh if anyone suggested that they call a news conference. They are just trying stuff, they say.
To get a taste of this stealth reform, step into Room 252 at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Fairfax County. That's where Bill Horkan works. The 44-year-old math teacher is a busy man. He is married, with three children ages 6, 8 and 9. His school has the largest portion of disadvantaged students in the county -- 58 percent are low-income. Many of them yearn for a good education, but learning is hard, and math is a particularly daunting challenge.