Too Many Cooks Can Also Lead to Stagnation

The University of Washington surveyed the superintendents from the 100 largest school systems (which would include the illustrious leader of our district) but there’s really no surprises in the results. The vast majority of them feel constricted in their efforts to implement any reforms, in large part due to "micromanaging school boards and teachers unions that aren’t flexible".

In our system the unions aren’t much of an impediment (or a help for that matter) since public employee unions are against the law. So the NEA and AFT locals "consult" and "advise" on teacher contracts but can’t do much more than complain when we get a lousy deal, which is most years. As a side show, however, it’s often quite fun to watch the big boss and the union presidents trade media sound bites as the budget process takes place.

As to our school board, micromanaging is exactly the right word. Each member has their own particular theories on how schools should be run and how teachers should teach. Of course, few if any of them have actually taught and most only go to schools for photo ops. That certainly doesn’t stop them from proposing all kinds of educational improvements, many of which look suspiciously like ones we tried ten, fifteen, twenty years ago – different jargon, new coat of paint. If school board members, and these 100 superintendents, really want to make an impact, maybe they need to embrace some real reforms to the basic structure of education. And yes, that includes charter schools and other alternatives to traditional schools.