This article on The Answer Sheet by principal George Wood recently crossed my Twitter stream. It makes the argument that it may be time for the Department of Education to ‘go away.’
I was, of course, intrigued and prepared to be highly critical of such a suggestion.
To my surprise, I found myself nodding in agreement. Here’s why:
- the farther policy makers are from the community the less likely their policies will meet the true needs of the community
- as the author states: “whenever you create a large bureaucracy, it will find something to do, even if that something is less than helpful.”
- NCLB has wreaked havoc on our education system and the current administration has only expanded the policies of testing and competition that breed cheating and watered-down teaching to ‘cover’ the material on the tests
Much of my reflection is based on first-hand experience. The School District of Philadelphia was taken over by the State in 2001 and the School Reform Commission was created to run the district. Ever since, we have been at the mercy of an unelected group of non-educators making policy for over 270 schools. For a few years the district had Small Learning Communities–called SLCs–which were comprised of clusters of schools within the same geographic location. My colleagues who were in the district at that time spoke highly of them because of their ability to address issues and concerns of their smaller community.
So is it time to return the control of schools back to the state? Is it time to release our schools from the bureaucracy of big government?
It feels odd for me, who votes mostly Democratic, to advocate for leaner government, but I’m beginning to believe that the time for Federal control of education is coming to an end.
As my own devil’s advocate, I do understand the importance of accountability and I do understand that right now there are huge discrepancies in how effective individual states are at maintaining high-quality educational standards and practices.
Still, deep down I believe that the more control local communities have over their schools the better.
What do you think?