Gummit Gonna Fix Our Schools???Little Duke offers this piece:
"Please Sir, May I have another?"
I must have really slept too much after all that turkey. Apparently I just woke up and today is not December 1st, but April 1st and we are all the fools. At least that is the feeling I get when reading the WSJ Op-Ed from Louis V. Gerstner Jr., the former CEO of IBM. READ IT HERE!
Mr. Gerstner may be a very smart man, but he missed the whole point of his own opinion. He makes the following suggestions:
- Abolish all local school districts, save 70 (50 states; 20 largest cities). Some states may choose to leave some of the rest as community service organizations, but they would have no direct involvement in the critical task of establishing standards, selecting teachers, and developing curricula.
- Establish a National Skills Day on which every third, sixth, ninth and 12th-grader would be tested against the national standards. Results would be published nationwide for every school in America.
- Establish national standards for teacher certification and require regular re-evaluations of teacher skills. Increase teacher compensation to permit the best teachers (as measured by advances in student learning) to earn well in excess of $100,000 per year, and allow school leaders to remove under-performing teachers.
Ideas that he thinks would change the educational landscape. While some of these things may be good ideas, his fundamental flaw is in reading why schools are failing in the first place. Read the first point and see how he refutes it with this point from his own article.
I believe the problem lies with the structure and corporate governance of our public schools. We have over 15,000 school districts in America; each of them, in its own way, is involved in standards, curriculum, teacher selection, classroom rules and so on. This unbelievably unwieldy structure is incapable of executing a program of fundamental change. While we have islands of excellence as a result of great reform programs, we continually fail to scale up systemic change.
Let’s see, we have 15,000 school districts with 15,000 sets of minds working on the problem. A few are successful, he says and so the answer is to do away with 96% of those groups? Are we to hope that the “new” groups in charge will be of the good 4%?
He further shoots himself in the foot by saying:
While ideally we want all 50 states to participate, we can get started with 30. The rest will be driven to abandon their "see no evil" blinders by their citizens as the original group achieves momentum and success.
Now, if I understand this correctly, 20 states would learn from the successes of the 30 under federal control, but 14, 000 school districts can’t learn from the 1,000 good ones?
Here’s the real problem. The Federal government has taken a bigger and bigger role in education since the 1970’s. Remember the promise the Department of Education? We have upped federal spending without any results except that schools continually get worse. A national teachers union makes sure that any real reform gets stuck in red tape. Their idea of reform is to spend more money and that has gotten us no where in the last 40 years.
Mr. Gerstner, here’s the real solution. Do not consolidate, but fragment them further. Not 90 school districts, not 15,000 school districts, but 1,500,000 schools and groups of schools. Get rid of the teachers unions and go to a voucher system. You won’t need national standards because parents would vote of how the schools were doing with their pocketbooks. You still want national standards. Watch them be created by private institutions based on the demand of parents who want to know how their school stacks up against others.
Moscow deciding that all crops must be harvested on August 15th didn’t work for farming and we think that Washington deciding what to do for each and every American will work any better. I’m sorry Mr. Gerstner, I trust 1.5 million minds more than 90.
Imagine if you read the paragraph about 15,000 school districts and inserted grocery store chains in place of school districts. It would read like this...
We have more than 15,000 Grocery Store Chains in America; each of them, in its own way, is involved in standards, freshness, employee selection, customer service rules and so on. This unbelievably unwieldy structure is incapable of executing a program of fundamental change. While we have islands of excellence as a result of great reform programs, we continually fail to scale up systemic change
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? While education may be important, I do believe eating may be more so and yet we manage to do that without Washington dictating how to do it. Competition keeps those stores in top shape, not a centralized bureaucracy."