The Problem (CEP)

There is an undeniable urgency to reform the United States’ education system by closing achievement gaps and improving outcomes. This urgency to improve has resulted in increased research, an enormous response from product development companies, and a seductive urge to be the first and fastest to implement the latest promising trend.

However, offering, and often mandating, a perpetual barrage of solutions can overwhelm teachers, deplete resources, and result in poor buy-in and implementation. In addition (or, perhaps, as a result), these “miracle cures” often do not deliver the anticipated or desired results.

The Carngie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching calls this phenomenon SOLUTIONITIS. What is Solutionitis and Why is it a Problem? Bryk, Gomez, Grunow, and LeMahieu (2015) have described solutionitis as “the propensity to jump quickly on a solution before fully understanding the exact problem to be solved,” and go as far as to say that it is an “education reform disease” (p. 24).

Rushing to a solution may give rise to several issues: the problem that is being addressed by the ready-made solution may not be fully understood; the quickly employed solution may not address the conditions or processes that are causing the problem; and if the whole system or process responsible for the problem is not clearly understood, some go-to solutions may make things worse or enable the core issues (Bryk et al., 2025; Kivel, 2015).

Experts acknowledge that although solutionitis often comes from good intentions, it is usually ineffective, exhausts resources, and increases the frustration and weariness of teachers, administrators, students, and caregivers (Nelsestuen, 2016). This phenomenon is not a new concept and teachers often label it the “one and done” mentality, which means that a newly mandated solution will not stick around for more than a year, so putting the time in to learn and implement a new program seems less important and like “just one more thing to do. We, at Pathways for Learning, understand that if this mentality of solutionitis continues, the results will continue to be the same, ineffectual, and disappointing.

Bryk, A. (2015). 2014 AERA Distinguished Lecture. Educational Researcher: a Publication of the American Educational Research Association., 44(9), 467–477. Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to improve: How Americas Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Kivel, L. (2015, May 18). The Problem with Solutions [Web log post]. Retrieved December 6, 2018, from Nelsestuen, K. (2016, January 13). Improvement science aligns education solutions to real problems [Web log post]. Retrieved December 6, 2018, from solutions-real-problems.