Monday, May 01, 2006

A Different School Management Model

One of the great side benefits to being married to my wife is that we take definite opposing positions on a wide range of issues, including education. Actually, it is not fair to say that she takes a "public-school" only approach on education, but she certainly represents what I believe to be the majority position on education, that public education should be the primary method of educating our kids.

But in talking about my position of a more market-oriented position, she did think that my "education as business" model was flawed in a couple of respects. First, like most people she envisioned education as business in terms of manufacturing businesses, that is making a series of regular automaton like models of children, all being the same. As frustrating as this mindset is, that is not the subject of this post.

The second observation my wife made is that school management reform might better be viewed through the prism of a not-for-profit organization. She and I both have experience working with and for trade associations and thus are used to the goverance model based on various committees setting policy for the functions of the organization. For example, a board of volunteers, elected by the members of the association, sets general policy for the entire association and the staff carry out the directives and day-to-day management of the association. EAch association may have a number of committees, overseeing policy areas such as public relations, government relations, legal issues, membership, industry education, etc. Each committee is then made up of members of the association who are elected by the entire association membership or appointed by the Board of Directors.

In a school situation, a good model might be the New Zealand model, where a committee composed of parents of students attending each school sets policy for the school. In my model, a board of directors, comprised of various stakeholders in the school, but alwasy dominated in a super-majority fashion by parents and/or students, would govern the school. Such government would include the hiring and firing of senior administrators, such as the principal and other higher officials. The committee would approve a budget, set policy in terms of curriculum, student and teacher evaluation and all of the other matters that a school must deal with. It is possible that subcommittees or other committees may govern other areas, always under the supervision of the main board.

As I see, the primary stakeholders of any school are the children attending that school and by proxy their parents. Teachers, administrators and other support staff have a stake in the adequate management of each school, but to a lesser extent than teh students. The problem with the current model of school management is that the primary stakeholders are too far removed from the governing apparatus of the schools. Further, because of the remoteness of the governing structures, it is too easy to blame someone else, either up or down the chain (or both), for the school's failure. But with a local committee, comprised of parents of children at the school, the blame can only go so far and each parent then has a vested interest in the effective management of their child's school.

Of course, a model such as this would require a massive change in school structures and management, similar to that taken by New Zealand. But you can have all the school choice you want, until the management of the schools is more closely held by the primary stakeholders, you are not likely to see massive improvements in the quality of education.

No comments: