Ted Kolderie doesn’t just believe that state leaders are starting to think outside the proverbial box. He thinks they are beginning to throw that box out altogether and create whole new systems for educating the nation’s young people.
A longtime advocate of charter schooling, the St. Paul, Minn.-based public-policy expert is co-directing a project to promote what he calls an “open sector” within public education that includes but is not confined to chartering. To advance that vision, Mr. Kolderie has written a new book, aimed at state leaders, that proposes a novel but controversial “theory of action” to explain many of the innovative approaches being taken by states to improve public education.
Urging state leaders to expand such efforts, Mr. Kolderie says states are starting to realize that it is futile to command districts and schools to place student learning first, as long as those organizations lack the incentives and ability to do so. So, state leaders are experimenting with policies that make it easier for new and different forms of schooling to emerge, he says, thereby increasing the capacity for K-12 education to become “a self-improving institution.”
Besides identifying such trends, the book lays out an “action agenda” for states looking to hedge what Mr. Kolderie describes as a risky, “one bet” strategy of expecting existing schools and districts to improve quickly enough to meet the nation’s needs and satisfy the demands of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
That agenda includes taking a fresh look at academic standards; avoiding the trap of trying to run schools directly; and “withdrawing the district’s traditional exclusive on public education in the community and empowering other entities to create new schools.”
Other options he proposes are for states to convert school boards into entities that contract with others to run schools, and to set up independent state agencies to oversee the “open sector” in a manner that is “more flexible, more entrepreneurial, [and] more performance-oriented” than existing education departments.
A version of this article appeared in the November 24, 2004 edition of Education Week