A few curriculums, such as Success For All and Direct Instruction, have proved to raise achievement. But even successful programs go out of fashion when policymakers are jazzed by the hottest new methods.
Is that a bad thing?
Sometimes the new stuff is better. And even if it isn't, putting the brakes on love of change for change's sake is so at odds with the American character it would be a waste of time to try.
We have been fiddling with our schools for two centuries. Nearly all of us have attended school, so each has an opinion on what needs improvement. In some cases, like phonics, our quarrels are several decades old.
What we rarely acknowledge is that our schools have gotten better over time. Test score averages have not risen much lately, but that is only one measure.
A bigger slice of our young population - including the poor and disabled - is learning more. Dropout rates are at historic lows. The sophistication of high school classes is breathtaking to those of us who grew up in the middle of the last century.
Foreign experts note that Americans have won 48 percent of the Nobel prizes in science, medicine and economics. They study our schools to see how we have inspired such creativity.
I may not think Ben Austin's parent trigger will fix many schools, but it does force educators to pay more attention to family complaints about classes that don't work.
The Common Core standards may not transform learning, but they give great teachers a chance to try more challenging lessons.
We're Americans. We're never satisfied.
That national trait can be aggravating, but it has gotten us very far. We should celebrate our educational battles, even if our language sometimes gets out of hand.
Mathews writes on education for The Washington Post.