The Afterlife of Big Ideas in Education Reform

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Media Outlet: Pacific Standard

Elena Silva was quoted in Pacific Standard on small learning communities reforms:

"No one spent any time understanding why the early pilots worked," says Elena Silva, the director of pre-K-12 policy at New America. "They just said, 'We'll make the schools smaller and that will do it.'"


"Schools build their programs around the grant, but then the grant runs out," New America's Silva says. She spent the early 2000s helping schools in Maryland and California get small learning communities funding. She says she saw it happen over and over: Districts received grants to turn around their schools, implemented the reforms, then gradually abandoned them when the funding dried up.

"They like the idea," Silva says, "but they don't have the money to keep it. So the ninth-grade small learning community becomes an even looser ninth-grade cohort, which becomes 'Wouldn't it be great if we just paid more attention to the ninth graders?' which becomes 'It never even happened.'"

In the News:

Elena Silva is director of PreK-12 for the Education Policy program at New America. Her research and writing focuses on a wide range of educational issues, including teacher’s work, school design and improvement, and the assessment and measurement of student learning.