Saturday, February 19

Transformational Change in Education Might be the Place to Start

A great column appeared in the Houston Chronicle today.

As we are watching Professional Leftists in their true form carry out their childish acts in Wisconsin, we see some good examples of what happens when adults are in charge.
Houston has attracted entrepreneurial educators from across the globe, many, like Tarim, drawn by the University of Houston, Rice and nearby Texas A&M. Other educational entrepreneurs were not new to the country, but were new to Houston. Feinberg, Levin and Barbic were among an army of young, idealistic TFA corps members from out of state drawn to Houston to save urban schooling. Houston has the nation's largest TFA chapter. Unlike many cities, Houston welcomed TFA rather than seeing corps members as taking jobs from locals.

So what makes Houston different? First, the Houston Federation of Teachers never had the power to keep out TFA or hamstring KIPP and other charters. But that still left a bureaucracy, which, as Jay Mathews writes, resented KIPP's notoriety and success. Before KIPP became a charter, the Houston Independent School District central office investigated KIPP, and at one point reassigned its classrooms. Political leadership saved the day. HISD Superintendent Rod Paige publicly praised KIPP and intervened when bureaucrats attacked. Paige also had HISD serve as an incubator for YES Prep. As Barbic recalls, "A lot of superintendents would have seen that innovation and tried to kill it, but Paige did the exact opposite." Paige's successors have followed his lead, fashioning a public school system that can compete with the charters.
In a couple of my recent posts where I have discussed some ideas suggesting we need Transformational Change, this article highlights two sections where I think this absolutely applies.

Highlighted in yellow, entrepreneurial and entrepreneurs suggest the type of thinking and the type of people we need to transform the nations education disaster. This is the new thinking we need. This is where the new solutions that work will come from. Highlighted in orange, is the old thinking, the continual path to ruin and inefficiency. The orange highlights are the way to stop progress.

Newt Gingrich has discussed a newer model, called Entrepreneurial Public Management to replace bureaucratic public administration. A more scholarly paper on Entrepreneurial Public Management can be found at AEI. As I have been thinking about how we reform, and therefore transform the current system(s) in America, this seems like a very logical place to start. Obviously the teachers unions will be the biggest problem. Anyone who has seen the documentary Waiting For Superman knows what I'm talking about. Think about that "rubber room" in New York. And think about the all-out assault the Professional Left launched against Michelle Rhee, for the crime of, hold your breath, WANTING CHILDREN TO LEARN, gasp. Fortunately, Michelle Rhee is able to do her own thing now.

So, I see a clearer path now than I did a few days ago. I'm still working and thinking about how we get to a point of Transformational Change and what that looks like. I hope you're working on it or thinking about it as well and I welcome your ideas and collaboration.

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