Posted November 6, 2008, 9:00am
Good morning and welcome to this timely discussion. We are coming off an historic election, where voters across the country heeded the call for change and supported candidates committed to fixing government at all levels. So what does the new political landscape bode for public school systems? Over the next two days, let’s share our insights about why schools and school districts have become such bloated bureaucracies, and develop some concrete recommendations for the changes needed at this level of government. To get started, why have schools become so bureaucratic?
Posted November 6, 2008, 9:06am
Though several initiatives have been put forth toward reducing the bureaucracy that exists in the New York City Department of Education, a major factor contributing to this bureaucracy germinates from the principal's inability to be a true CEO of his or her building. This is a disservice to the students and is neither in line with the corporate model supported by the New York City Department of Education nor Mayor Bloomberg's task force on education. Issues such as contractual restraints with regard to removing ineffective or unnecessary personnel, excessive staff absenteeism, and fractured data collection systems all detract from schools' efficiency and productivity. Through balanced negotiation and investment in our informational infrastructure, we will effectively serve our precious clientele, our students. Though bureaucracy is not unique to public education; management, administration, and labor must all work together to continue the process of reclamation that has already begun in New York City.
Posted November 6, 2008, 9:33am
I would suggest first taking a long-term historical perspective which might help understand how schools have become bureaucratic institutions. Our country's founders were wise to not mention public education in the federal constitution. They left that endeavor up to the states.
When states began to form, America was an agrarian economy and society. The common schools developed in these rather simple, but harsh, times. One-room multi-grade schoolhouses dominated for the entire 19th Century. Schools were controlled often by a single trustee. Life and schooling were simple.
But at the turn of the 20th Century, schools and school districts began to consolidate and become larger and more complex. High schools increased in number and size. Curriculum expanded, electives and advanced courses were added. Specialization occurred. Special education programs proliferated and rules were developed to "protect" these children. Society expanded schools' duties to include many non-academic responsibilities.
Employees began to bargain collectively. School boards morphed into politicians as they became elected officials. In the latter half of the twentieth century legislatures and Congress began to pass a plethora of laws to govern public education. Large departments in state departments of education and large school district central offices emerged to administer these many laws passed to govern education. Thus, the birth of bureaucracy emerged in the 20th century. This is the era of public schools which continues today.
What this writer will argue today is that it is time for a new era of schooling—the freedom school era. An era free of bureaucracy and full of freedom.
Posted November 6, 2008, 9:55am
Thank you for this opportunity to comment.
As an educator, I looked at the bureaucracy as another hurdle to proposals for change. I’m certain that if an educator is not tenacious or persistent enough the red tape barrier will not be cut. In my own case, as a district instructional technology specialist—it took me six months of arguing with the district technology director and the assistant superintendent to get simple cameras installed in one of my computer labs. It’s frustrating to say the least. I could have installed them myself in an hour—tops. It’s almost that in education we have been brainwashed to believe that change has to come slowly. My favorite line is that it took about 19 years to get overheads out of the bowling alleys and into classrooms.
I always hated hearing things like “Oh, we don’t do that here!" or "Great idea can you write that in a proposal?” In many cases those short answers from administrators usually mean we’re not doing it, or if it makes you feel better—write it down. A principal friend of mine told me that when others see the importance in what you want to do, then it will happen. The problem is that if bureaucracy is thick, you may never have that happen, in most cases, from the bottom up in education. The worst thing that can happen is that creative education pioneers give up. That happens to the most stubborn, but when it happens to those who are not, it may be their last idea.
Some top-down comments, and what I see as writer and editor seeking education stories later.
Posted November 6, 2008, 10:06am
Why are public school systems so bureaucratic? Several factors:
- The explosions of policies and codes: while taken individually, probably most policies had a kernel of thoughtfulness, on the whole we have created a system so complex with rules, regulations, approvals, checks and balances, that it has sapped whatever spirit of good decision making and common sense is left. Good organizations thrive on good talent and good decision-making, not on greatly codified processes and rules.
- Centralization: as Sana Nasser alludes, the Principal controls very little. He is not the true CEO of his school. Most major decisions are made by the central bureaucracy. And thus we've turned Principals into good "followers of the rules" not great managers and instructional leaders.
- Union rules: while I believe in unions, they have fought for contracts that reflect their distrust in management and have tried to further regulate things more (see first point). So they have contributed, unfortunately, to the explosion of regulations and policies.
- Lack of management talent: when you have such a centralized system and such complexity of regulations, coupled with a lack of clear accountability, what suffers is human resource development. Over time, even the most talented individuals, when they don't exercise their decision-making abilities, lose this ability and revert to checking the rule book for everything. Management talent becomes a rarity...
I could go on, but I'll stop here...
Posted November 6, 2008, 10:30am
Thanks for including me. In Public Agenda's surveys and focus groups with superintendents and principals, complaints about bureaucracy and red tape emerge repeatedly. They actually fall into several categories: One is the complexity—near incomprehensibility some tell us—of the major federal mandates—special education and No Child Left Behind. Second is the "nibbled to death by ducks" phenomenon. It’s the accumulation of federal, state, and local mandates (plus contractual obligations) that make "bureaucracy and red tape" overwhelming. Plus, school leaders say, there are often conflicts in what the various mandates call for. Third is the one Ken mentioned—it’s difficult to get relatively simple things done. Fourth is that principals, who are now expected to be "instructional leaders" and working more directly and closely with classroom teachers, still have a lot of minor administrative tasks that fall to them. As one told us, "Give me a break—how am I responsible for a bus driver being rude at a bus stop?”
These various problems may call for very different solutions.
Posted November 6, 2008, 10:51am
Sana Nasser identified one of the significant problems in the improvement of public education: school principals in no sense of the word are allowed to serve as the CEO of their schools. They have been de-skilled and serve mainly as their schools' CCOs (chief compliance officers). They must comply with: (1) all state statutes governing public education; (2) all state administrative regulations governing public education; (3) all federal laws governing public education; (4) all federal administrative agency regulations governing public education; (5) all school board policies; (6) all superintendent and central office administrative regulations, rules, and directives; and finally, but not least, (7) all collective bargaining contracts. When is there time or opportunity for the poor principal to courageously lead a school to education reform and improvement?
Ken Royal succinctly points out a prevailing problem in the current bureaucratic environment. It took him six months of arguing to get simple cameras installed in his computer lab when he could have installed them in one hour himself! As he states—it was frustrating.
Another example is my wife—who qualifies as a "principal left behind" as she remains active as a sitting principal after I left the superintendent's chair for the greener and softer pastures of the university. She was involuntarily transferred to the most high risk and most underperforming elementary school in her district. Ostensibly it was because she was the "best elementary principal we have." She was told she would have "full authority" to turn that school around and was directed to do so. However, there is a constant trail of central office administrators, state education department bureaucrats, trainers, consultants and others coming into her building to occupy her time. She is constantly told to go to numerous "training" activities. Meetings, meetings, meetings take up her time. She is out of her building close to half her time for these mandated activities. On top of this, she does not get to pick her own assistant principal (who wanted the principal's job at this school), nor does she get to pick her own staff because of seniority provisions in a variety of union contracts. And the school board expects her to turn around a school in this bureaucratic environment?
School reform and school improvement can occur. Step 1 is to let the principal be the CEO of the building.
Posted November 6, 2008, 11:02am
Let me take a somewhat different tack and try to mix up the conversation a bit. Bureaucracy isn’t bad, in and of itself. Indeed, theoretically anyway, it is good. It is supposed to rationalize the process and generate efficiencies through coordination, encoding learning into procedures, differentiating functions to obtain the benefits of specialized knowledge/skills, promoting reliable work behaviors, creating economies of scale, etc. The problem is when bureaucracy goes awry and the means become the ends rather than serving the ends, in our case student achievement. I suspect we want some procedures (aka bureaucracy) in place. The question is in what areas does it serve school performance well (e.g., food services, facilities, assessment/accountability, etc.), in what areas does it restrict performance, and at what level should they be determined (school vs some higher level). I would really like to hear Marco weigh in on this since I suspect Green Dot has had to think this through with their schools.
Posted November 6, 2008, 11:06am
Jeff- Over the past few years, principals have been given greater autonomy with regard to budget, hiring, curriculum, and professional development. We look forward to continuing these reforms in the future.
Posted November 6, 2008, 12:33pm
I think Jane's note is helpful in that she's asking us to think through the places where bureaucracy is necessary and useful versus the places where it's just a time-consumer and energy-sapper. For example, most school leaders tell us that some data collection requirements of NCLB are beneficial—especially those that focus on achievement among different groups of students. They've made districts acknowledge and act on problems that were beneath the surface before.
Maybe we could also consider another "how can we solve this" theme, especially since several of us have talked about the "nibbled to death by ducks" syndrome—the accumulation of mandates, rules, etc. that make the situation so bothersome. Who has the power to make the needed changes? What entities, groups, etc. could actually be helpful in cutting the red tape?
Posted November 6, 2008, 1:00pm
We have quickly come to a consensus that the sheer volume of bureaucratic requirements in schools make it exceedingly difficult for principals and teachers to focus on their core mission, education not compliance. Given tax revenue shortfalls, rising energy and health care costs, and budgetary pressures at all levels of government, the inevitable challenge for school districts in the foreseeable future will be to do more with less. How can we shrink school bureaucracies? Picking up on Jane and Jean’s comments, what functional areas are best performed in a higher level, central bureaucracy? And for those functions which interfere with school performance, who has the power to cut red tape? Can school systems reform themselves or are external forces necessary?
Posted November 6, 2008, 1:36pm
Assuming for the moment that Jane Hannaway's definition of bureaucracy is appropriate under certain circumstances, I would offer that the structure of the governance system should be changed in order to eliminate bureaucracy as much as possible, and in order to move the educational bureaucracy from the central office to the building level. Empowerment of teachers and school principals is the key to containing bureaucracy. But with freedom must come responsibility. I suggest the following as an outline for a new vision of public school governance that will diminish the bad effects of bureaucracy:
1. Deregulation of public schools and dismantling the politico-edu-bureaucracy.
2. Create an environment that focuses on students as clients and eliminates politics external to schools.
3. Empower teachers and principals to serve students' academic needs and to operate the school.
4. Assign personal and group accountability for all school staff as well as all stakeholders.
5. Provide free choice of public schools for all parents within a reasonable area.
6. Change school finance to a weighted student-funding formula where state revenue follows the child.
These six changes can serve as the foundation for a new system of governance of public schools. It will place the authority and responsibility for producing academic achievement results at the building level, while the central office supports buildings with the provision of transportation, facilities, maintenance, and food services. Under this new system of governance the academic responsibility for schools would be bid out competitively to principals and their group of senior level teacher leaders. Five year contracts would be issued. This laces responsibility at the building level, provides transparency of results, and eliminates the need for top-down management of individual schools. With this transparency and accountability, there is no need for massive new laws and regulations to be passed every year micro-managing public schools. Giving teachers and principals freedom to use their independent professional judgment, accompanied by real accountability, can elevate the teaching craft to a true professional status.
Posted November 6, 2008, 2:18pm
The hierarchy is a bit sticky, so while the superintendent is looked upon as the district leader/decision-maker, she or he is a rung down the ladder from the board of education, and they in turn are a rung down from the finance board, and all are influenced by the citizens who have hired or elected them. When so many weigh in it’s difficult to figure out a way around what’s Bad in Bureaucracy. And the buck doesn’t stop there—education is so tied to each individual state (which can be very different) and then national regulations and demands—the whole thing becomes very difficult to handle. Bottom line, as was mentioned, kids are the customers here and time isn’t taking a break. Sometimes I wonder if thinking about it as you would a medical emergency might help. We seem to know how to cut the red tape there, for the most part. It’s a good week to bring up politics—it just seems to me, this is a very tough knot to untangle without looking at the top rung.
Posted November 6, 2008, 2:58pm
Ken, you raise a couple of interesting points. Education leaders are part of the problem and have to be part of the solution. How can we make the “top rung” occupants, superintendents, local education and finance board members, and education commissioners more accountable for the size and effectiveness of the bureaucracies which they oversee? Would more transparency help? A new Fordham Institute pilot study, The Red Tape Report, shines a spotlight on key state regulations that impede the autonomy of principals and grades five states on the degree to which they micromanage schools. And why are most parents and voters so complacent about school bureaucracy? How bad does the problem have to get before we declare an emergency?
Posted November 6, 2008, 3:29pm
I would like to make the distinction between bureaucracy and overhead. While both terms have a negative connotation, I think that what Jane Hannaway was referring to is that you do need some overhead to coordinate the system, standardize processes, prioritize investments, and focus resources. Every industry has overhead: in the for-profit world, the average overhead is 25% of all costs (as defined by the percentage of costs that are sales, general and administrative). The most efficient industries go as low as 13% (utilities if you care to know) while others, like the pharmaceutical industry, spend close to 50%. The fact is, not all overhead is bad.
At Green Dot, we have an ambitious goal to have overhead represent only 5-10% of all costs. Meaning all other costs are incurred at schools. We are not there yet, although we are clearly very efficient when compared to a regular district. Our approach is to define as clearly as possible the accountability framework, then decentralize decision-making to schools as much as possible, and intervene promptly when data shows things are not going well. The center (the “overhead”) is responsible for: a) codification of best practices, and then training principals and assistant principals on those best practices; b) managing some services that make more sense to be centralized because they do not need to be personalized for a specific student or school to get better; c) managing growth (real estate, fundraising, etc.); and d) holding people accountable, including ourselves in the "overhead."
Posted November 6, 2008, 3:33pm
We already have the tools to keep superintendents accountable, but we just don't use them. While NCLB has many flaws, it does offer a fairly clear perspective of what should happen to schools and Districts that fail. But, at least in California, there has been very little "bite" to the law. The Los Angeles Unified School District probably has 70 to 80 schools in Performance Improvement 5+ (most over 6-7 years) and they're just allowed to continue. All they had to do at year 4 of PI is submit a plan that was approved by the District itself and voila, you're off the hook. Who cares that you continue to fail—you've checked the box. I'd like to see real accountability in terms of schools being either shut down, or taken away and given to new administrators like charters. Without consequences, there is no accountability.
Posted November 6, 2008, 4:04pm
Whoa, Marco, you can’t go shutting down schools. Well, you could, but that would just add another mess. In Connecticut they have had takeovers of schools—in a corporate way—and threats to take over schools, as well as big turnover at the top admin levels. The corporate-like takeovers don’t work, and I can’t see switching out superintendents like baseball managers either. You have to remember, too, that districts are trying to meet NCLB with all students. It’s just not that easy—and will get more difficult, but that’s another discussion. The answer can’t be closing schools, or superintendents running scared. It’s not that simple—back to red tape.
Posted November 6, 2008, 5:02pm
Here's the list of mandates one state superintendent we interviewed reeled off:
• All children must receive oral health instruction and information about organ donation;
• All schools must have an "anti-bullying" policy;
• Everyone must say the Pledge of Allegiance;
• Social studies classes must celebrate "Freedom Week";
• All schools must have a parent involvement committee;
• Each bus driver must have two paid breaks;
• Districts must have committees on employee policies and committees on "closing the gap";
• Each teacher must have a set amount of money for supplies;
• Every child's body mass index must be listed on the report card.
That's on top of NCLB, special ed, and actually running the school system of course. How many of these are appropriate, useful mandates? Is there any way to get state legislatures to curtail what seems to me to be a lot of "window dressing" legislation?
Posted November 6, 2008, 5:45pm
Jean, this is the stuff that fills faculty-meeting agendas these days. I remember training on how to restrain students, avoiding cupcakes and birthdays before 2:30 PM, recess or not to recess, and lock down practice. A great deal of time was spent on how to practice for the standardized test, and how to avoid infractions when delivering those tests to students. In the old days we discussed kids and teaching after an opener by the principal. At more recent meetings, it was not uncommon for me to hear frustrated teachers ask if they could also have some time to actually teach the curriculum. In most cases, the last five minutes was devoted to new technology presented in a quick fire Robin Williams’ delivery. By the way, two breaks a day sounds wonderful. ;>)
Posted November 6, 2008, 5:50pm
Ken, I think you're misinterpreting what I'm saying. Several school districts (like NYC and Chicago) have taken the bold steps to shut down chronically underperforming schools and either reopened new ones in their place or contracted them out to third parties. I'm not talking about corporate raiders doing it. I am talking about the lack of urgency and lack of aggressive action that happens when people hide behind phrases like “it is not that easy.” It might not be easy, but in my view, transforming districts will require some boldness. Shutting down underperforming schools, reconstituting them or doing charter conversions would be a healthy shock therapy to the bureaucracy.
Posted November 6, 2008, 6:00pm
As we wind down our first day of conversation, the weight and intransigence of school bureaucracies is apparent. Marco and Ken highlight an important tension. What should be done about chronic underperformance? Marco thinks it’s time for bold, aggressive action. Ken says we can’t just shut down schools, and that corporate-style takeovers aren’t the way to fix schools or motivate superintendents. And in the midst of this struggle, Jean gives us a magnificent, but troubling list of the endless mandated minutiae schools are drowning in every day. Tomorrow I hope we can turn to practical recommendations and concrete solutions. How do we clean house in school bureaucracy? Indiana has just elected a new State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Anthony Bennett, who will manage the Department of Education and lead the state Board of Education. Bennett wants the Department to run as efficiently as possible and believes regulation handcuffs schools from pursuing their agendas. What advice do we have for him and other newly elected officials about how to translate campaign aspirations into policy realities?
Posted November 6, 2008, 7:09pm
There has been a lot of talk so far about punitive measures for schools, such as takeovers or school closings, as a way to deal with bureaucracy. Punitive measures seem to smack of Taylorism top-down management as well as Theory X management. But are punitive measures the best way to deal with bureaucracy? I would not argue that punitive measures are never appropriate, but would suggest they be used after positive measures have failed. In over thirty years of involvement in public education, I have never known a teacher or school principal who did not want a kid to learn. But I have known scores who are browned out, burned out, and dispirited because of so many rules and mandates. All too many teachers and school principals have expressed to me that they think that legislators, school boards, and sometimes superintendents do not trust them. The bureaucracy has robbed teachers and principals of the opportunity to be creative and innovative, and to use their professional talents to the fullest. I think it is time to try Ouchi's Theory Z and apply it to teachers and school principals. Why don't legislatures accord them a little professional respect and trust? Why must they be micro-managed by the bureaucracy? With more freedom to use their professional judgment, coupled with accountability for their actions, teachers and principals will be empowered and become enthused to act in the best interests of students.
Posted November 7, 2008, 9:47am
Well, now I have the need to defend myself, because clearly I must be that ‘punitive measure Taylorism’ guy. :)
Jeff, I think you've just defined Green Dot. We are actually the exact definition of a middle of a road approach. Contrary to most charter organizations, we have embraced unions and have put students (first, as always) teachers and principals at the center of a reform platform. Our model is one of decentralization and site-based decision-making. We treat teachers and principals as professionals, giving them autonomy over their budgets, their hiring and retention of staff. We allow teachers to teach their own lesson plans, using their judgment to fit their students’ needs. We, together with our union, have required that clear, fair, and transparent accountability measures are in place. We believe in smaller, safer schools that become better environments for learning and personalization.
My points about shutdowns were referring to the urgency needed for the transformation of the system. The enemy is the bureaucracy, not the teachers or principals. In our model, we will need about 20 to 40% more teachers to serve Los Angeles and probably 10 times the number of principals. What we won't need is a bloated bureaucracy outside of the schools. The "punitive" method of closing schools that are chronically failing refers more to a process to get from point A to point B. I simply don't believe we can legislate ourselves out of this. Adult interests will always take precedence in a legislative process. We need bold action to transform.
Posted November 7, 2008, 10:17am
Ye gads … Must be losing my advocate and belligerent edge from my law practice days, because I agree 100% with what Marco said. There are certainly a lot more enlightened charter schools than government public schools. This is due in no small part to the lack of a bureaucracy. Imagine Schools in Fort Wayne, IN, is organized and operates with the same philosophy as Green Dot. However, not all charter schools operate in such an enlightened manner. I can think of one charter school in Indiana that drove its new principal out within 3 weeks of starting the job. The president of the charter board was on a power trip and had always wanted to operate a public school, even though of course he had absolutely no teaching or administrative experience, much less any state educator license. His petty politics mimicked many local public school boards.
There is too much bureaucracy in public schools because we have too many chefs in the governance kitchen making the soup. We have state legislators, Congress, state departments of education, the U.S.D.O.E., school boards, central offices, teacher unions, and other interest groups making the soup. When it turns out bitter each part of the governance system can blame the other part. How convenient! What a wonderful way to design a system that assures a complete lack of accountability for any single person or group. The solution may be so simple that policy makers are overlooking the obvious—Why not hire just one chef (the principal) and let the chef be responsible and accountable for a sweet-tasting soup? Let the chef be the CEO of the kitchen, and hold the chef accountable for results. This seems to be the Green Dot way. Why not expand this philosophy to the public schools? Are the adult interests in the way of such expansion?
Posted November 7, 2008, 2:51pm
Everyone would agree that "excessive red tape" and "bloated bureaucracies" are bad. They waste precious and limited resources and often restrict productive behaviors. But I think we want to distinguish between that and decentralization. A school could be highly decentralized and still be hamstrung by its own excessive school rules and regulations. The trade-off, as I see it, is between holding schools accountable for process (following rules, procedures, etc.) and holding them accountable for student outcomes. I think we are in the midst of a big change in this regard...moving toward performance-based accountability...and experiencing all the bumps along the way. And that's how we got to discussions about what to do with the chronically low performing schools. Is simply setting them "free" the answer?
Posted November 7, 2008, 3:02pm
I’ve been following the conversation and even reading the reader comments. We need to forget everyone’s personal agenda and think about what we’ve all said that is consistent in almost every thread of this conversation. It is that there needs to be a fresh look from the top to filter out all the fibrous mess, decrease the number of hoops everyone has to jump through, and get the rules straight forward enough that you can see from point “A” to point “B”. We used to call that common sense, and it works in business and it works in education. Our new president could get this rolling, where as our last just added to the confusion. Wouldn’t it be something if President Obama gathered a group to look at education bureaucracy from the top down? The prerequisite for a member of this new group could be knowledge of education and business, but most importantly it should be that each member has common sense and can see through the tangle to get the shortest distance between each point from national to state to local—right down to the student. The time is right to do it and it can be done. It would take time, and I hate that, but it needs to happen. Sure, there’s dead wood in every field, but to straighten out this bureaucracy it needs a new, fresh look from the top, rather than removing the managers on the ground floor, who are certainly having trouble figuring out the map—and don’t have the funds to cover the jungle that continues to grow. Man, I’d love a chance to do that, and I’m sure everyone it this discussion would as well. Who knows Barack? Sign us up!
Posted November 7, 2008, 3:18pm
Jane, simply setting school principals and teachers "free" is not sufficient. I do believe they need to be free to use their best professional judgment. In over thirty years I have not observed excessive school rules and regulations promulgated at the school building level. These excesses have always been promulgated by state legislatures, the state board of education, the state department of education, school boards, central offices, and teacher unions. Any principal who in the new freedom school environment attempts to establish excessive rules and regulations, and thereby create a one-school bureaucracy, will not last long in a competitive environment. Scientific management types simply don't last long in the school business.
I have had conversations the past few years with various local teacher union leaders about the idea of holding schools (and teachers) accountable for outcomes and not process. The teachers like the idea of being in control of their own classroom. But I have received mixed responses, although the majority would favor the idea. Many are scared of accountability because it has been a foreign concept and not part of public schools' culture.
Unfortunately, teacher evaluations mostly just evaluate the teachers’ processes, and not outcomes. In Indiana we have a statute preventing a teacher's evaluation from being based upon the state's standardized test (ISTEP+). Thus, I have seen very little movement in Indiana toward the idea of freeing up teachers to select their processes, in turn for being held accountable for outcomes.
In my view, academic achievement will take a quantum jump when policy-makers free up teachers to select their own processes (i.e. to control their own destiny in the classroom and use their professional judgment) in return for accountability for outcomes from using those processes.
Posted November 7, 2008, 3:22pm
Love your idea Ken! Sign us all up! I agree totally with your idea to look at education bureaucracy from the top down. This is exactly what is needed. The problem of bureaucracy cannot be attacked from the ground floor, but needs to be attacked from the 20-mile-high view. Bureaucracy as we know it will always be with us until policymakers study public education with a systemic reform lens.
Posted November 7, 2008, 4:03pm
Several posts have focused on the need to avoid micro-managing principals and certainly have made a persuasive case for it. I am just wondering if there are a few more specific near-term measures that might persuade state legislators to think twice before passing non-academic mandates on oral health and "Freedom Week" and the like. Many of them seem well-intended, but passed without much thought about how schools will actually accomplish them. I wonder if there are groups like the National Governors Association or others that could publicly challenge this kind of "mission creep," feel-good legislation. Given the challenges facing today's schools, it really doesn't seem like too much to ask. This may not be a fundamental issue, but it certainly seems to be a frustrating burden for the principals and superintendents we've interviewed. I wonder who could be the bully pulpit here.
Posted November 7, 2008, 4:50pm
Here's another crazy idea: (this is for LA but could be done anywhere) I bet you that if you took the California Ed Code, the full set of LAUSD policies and all LAUSD union contracts and did a thorough analysis, you would find that there are a crazy amount of conflicting rules and regulations. And I do mean conflicting...so, which one "wins"?
Posted November 7, 2008, 5:19pm
I think Jean is on to something. Where can the "bully pulpit" be found? I think the National Governors Association or the Council of Chief State School Officers might be another. The problem with both these organizations is that their membership is full of politicians, many of whom have regularly offered legislation to "fix public schools."
I think we need good research on the plethora of laws that hamstring public education as Marco suggests. This might draw media attention to the problem. Perhaps, as the newly elected President of the United States did, we need an electronic media campaign to build grassroots support to significantly reduce the "bad" bureaucracy. I am not sure anything will be done until teachers and education leaders join in this effort to reduce bureaucracy.
Posted November 7, 2008, 5:52pm
Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. You have been an engaged, thoughtful group and it has been a pleasure serving as your moderator. As most of you know, reducing school bureaucracy is at the heart of Common Good’s Education Initiative. Our Over Ruled project (which will go national next year) is one of the ways Common Good is working to raise awareness of the plethora of laws you have identified. We look forward to a continued dialogue with you about the best bully pulpits. In the meantime, let’s all do our part to cut red tape whenever we can!