Dismantle the large districts first…

Then dismantle the smaller ones.

When the Washington Post starts writing editorials like this, it can’t be long before more liberals start to see the light on education.

The Big Easy’s school revolution

But what really distinguishes New Orleans is how government has re­defined its role in education: stepping back from directly running schools and empowering educators to make the decisions about hours, curriculum and school culture that best drive student learning. Now, state and school-district officials mostly regulate and monitor — setting standards, ensuring equity and closing failing schools.

Rahm could just as easily shut down 125 S. Clark. Setting standards is ALL any state or city need do. Let 100s of new independent schools find the best way to meet those standards.

As for the teachers, once free of their unions’ golden handcuffs, they can find solace in once again being viewed as true professionals, and not the rent-seeking collectivized drones of the failed legacy system. From, the article…

One teacher I spoke with during a recent trip talked about the luxury of being pursued by different charter networks willing to pay for her talents. After 11 years of teaching, she said, it was the first time she felt she was being treated as a professional. I visited the classrooms of Sci Academy, where 99 percent of the students are minorities and 92 percent are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. They have some of the city’s highest scores on statewide tests, and more than 90 percent of Sci Academy seniors have already been accepted to a four-year college or university.

Teachers need to realize that 100s of schools bidding for their talents is better than 4 or 5 districts doing the same. This bidding will eventually raise the pay of the most competent teachers. As for the rest, it shouldn’t be our problem.

With Teacher Unions in retreat, go for “Unconditional Surrender”

Then enforce dismantlement of their infrastructure.

I worry when a well-known conservative magazine writes an article praising the “courage” of an Teacher Union thug.

The Amazing Randi

In what could prove a turning point in favor of education reform, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten came out in favor of considering student performance on standardized tests as one part of teacher evaluations. If Weingarten turns her words into real actions, and if the teachers’ unions follow Weingarten’s lead, it will improve teacher quality across the country.

Please don’t buy this classic bait and switch. The Teacher Unions have been taking a bath in elections, where their usual litany of lies (“Chris Christie hates the children” or “We’ll have to abolish the curriculum if you don’t accede to our unsustainable spending on salaries”) aren’t working any more.

With their popularity dropping in light of obscene property taxes and pension piggery, they are pretending to “give” on some “reform” issues in the hopes that they can begin their campaign of lies as soon as the economy turns around again.

Don’t let them. There should be one goal, and one goal only in education reform. 100% fully funded scholarships for EVERY child, and a complete de-unionization of education. Let’s take a page from Rahm Emanuel’s playbook, and NOT LET A GOOD CRISIS GO TO WASTE.

Use the current anger of the electorate to finally, aggressively, and relentlessly expose the teachers’ unions for the engines of greed and mediocrity that they truly are. Public Employee unionization has bankrupted entire states, and it is time unionization was pushed out of the public sector. Period.

Those crazy Swedish right-wing nutjobs

The Education Revolution

In Sweden, the educational landscape has been transformed by the advent of a sweeping choice program that allows anyone–groups of parents, civil society groups, and, most important, for-profit enterprises–to establish their own schools that would then receive per-pupil funding at roughly the same rate as state-run schools. If this sounds like the familiar idea of universal school vouchers, championed by American libertarians and conservatives, you’re on the right track.

But it turns out that the solidarity-minded Scandinavians have gone far further in this direction than any American jurisdiction. The results have been a stunning success, one that has delighted students and parents alike. As Anders Hultin, one of the creators of Sweden’s system of “free schools,” has argued, the profit motive has encouraged successful schools to clone themselves, not unlike a fast-food franchise. One can easily imagine such schools touting their success in placing graduates in good jobs. The beauty of this approach is that it doesn’t demand that school administrators in some central office divine the one best way to encourage spontaneity; rather, it allows hundreds, if not thousands, of free-thinkers to experiment.

The Trendsetting nature of Extreme Wisdom

It isn’t as if smart people can’t come up with good ideas on their own, particularly when they are retired CEOs with lots of time on their hands. Regardless, I take a bit of pride in the fact that I thought up a pretty darn good “education reform plan” and actually took the time to write it up for people.

I will admit to borrowing some pretty good concepts from others. Obviously, Milton Friedman gets most of the credit for coming up with the entire concept of choice in education. The next round of credit goes to Illinois’ own Jeff Berkowitz (of “Public Affairs” fame). He re-introduced me to the obviously brilliant “fully-funded” scholarship idea. Why should the existing system be allowed to keep a dime? Next up, the Heartland Institute wrote an excellent policy study about a decade ago, proposing a way to fund scholarships through a combination of district-based, and state-based funding. Next, E.D.Hirsch, author of “Cultural Literacy” and “The Schools we Need – and why we don’t have them” chimed in with his excellent ideas on a robust and sequenced curriculum. Add to all that the good work done by the policy community in promoting charter schools, which offer a model to remove the school from the control of the bureaucrats.

All of this culminated in one huge insight that I came to on my own. What on God’s Green Earth do we need a “school district” for? The answer is “Nothing!”

Local control is a myth. The “district” is merely a bureaucratic “franchise” mechanism to create the illusion of local control while taxing property into oblivion so as to employ a class of protected, pampered bureaucrats and an oversupply of mediocre teachers.

Get rid of it. Lose millions of dollars of ugly pork overnight. You can now boil education reform down to 4 words in America. Fund Children, not Bureaucrats.

Apparently, retired CEOs are starting to realize the same thing.

40 Years of Education Reform
by Louis Gerstner

So, from someone who realized rather glumly last week that he has been working at school reform for 40 years, here is a prescription for leadership from the Obama administration.

We must start with the recognition that, despite decade after decade of reform efforts, our public K-12 schools have not improved. We can point to individual schools and some entire districts that have advanced, but the system as a whole is still failing. High school and college graduation rates, test scores, the number of graduates majoring in science and engineering all are flat or down over the past two decades. Disappointingly, the relative performance of our students has suffered compared to those of other nations. As a former CEO, I am worried about what this will mean for our future workforce.

It is most crucial for our political leaders to ask why we are at this point — why after millions of pages, in thousands of reports, from hundreds of commissions and task forces, financed by billions of dollars, have we failed to achieve any significant progress?

Hmmmm?! Greedy teacher’s unions, self-propagating bureaucrats, and overly-credulous soccer-moms, perhaps? Well, here is the best part. After detailing the problem, the illustrious Mr. Gerstner comes up with his proposal. What’s the FIRST item?

Therefore, I recommend that President-elect Barack Obama convene a meeting of our nation’s governors and seek agreement to the following:

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.

He should have quit after the word “districts.” Why should engines of waste and corruption (city school districts) get to remain intact? If anything, they should be the first to be dismantled. Regardless, it is good to know that the idea is out there. I may not have been the first, but I’ve been one of the most vocal. The policy community is still taking baby steps of “charter expansion.” With Gerstner throwing this out into the meme pool, maybe others can eventually see the light.

We don’t need school districts and we don’t need teacher’s unions.

As for the other big piece of Gerstner’s idea, I think I have a better way. I’m all for a robust curriculum, but we can attain that goal with out the damage to individual choice that would be created by a “national curriculum.”

[ BTW, we already have a “national curriculum.” It’s the drivel that gets foisted on your kids by a gaggle of teachers who where indoctrinated in “ed-school.” ]

If you read my plan, you’ll see that it creates the huge opportunity for all to access such a curriculum, while giving the newly created network of independent schools the freedom of how to teach it.

Add in “education savings accounts,” and you have the recipe for rapidly falling education costs with dramatic increases in results.