Opinion
School & District Management Opinion

District (De/Re)Centralization Influences the School Improvement Industry

By Marc Dean Millot — October 15, 2007 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Washington, DC is joined by Seattle, Washington in its leaders’ efforts to do a better job of central control. In DC, Chancellor Michelle Rhee is trying to get hold of a bureaucracy that decades of leadership failures left untethered. In Seattle, Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, is reversing her predecessors’ deliberate plans to push decisionmaking authority to individual schools.

It’s no great secret that I prefer decentralization as a matter of public policy. It’s also a better choice for the school improvement market.As for public policy, I think we will get better student outcomes by letting individual schools respond to their unique human circumstances, than by requiring every school to respond to decisions made for every human by any superintendent. Moreover, I believe the first scenario will attract the most competent educators, while the second leaves the district with the least capable - and so left with no alternative but centralization.

Can I prove my policy case for district decentralization with evaluation? Not at this point. But I can say that the last fifty years of commitment to the strategy of centralization have offered a pretty good case for trying. The overall record certainly doesn’t provide much of argument for re-centralizing DC or Seattle.

The choice of centralization or decentralization is not an “academic matter” for school improvement industry leaders. A market consisting of over 10,000 school districts is quite different from one made up of over 100,000 schools. Sticking with the first reinforces the marketing advantages today’s large providers – the publishers. Moving to the second changes the rules of the game, and so opens up sales to hundreds of small, innovative- and research-driven providers.

I don’t see how we get the educational programs we need to improve student achievement if we leave school improvement to superintendents who seek programs that will work across their districts, and providers able to block all but their sister oligarchs from the marketplace. I can see it happening with principals who purchase programs that meet their needs and providers whose marketing advantage is based on demonstrated results with like-minded clients.

More later on the link between public policy and market structure - i.e., industrial policy.

The opinions expressed in edbizbuzz are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
From Chaos to Clarity: How to Master EdTech Management and Future-Proof Your Evaluation Processes
The road to a thriving educational technology environment is paved with planning, collaboration, and effective evaluation.
Content provided by Instructure
Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion 3 Skills to Help Leaders Navigate in Uncertain Times
Today’s charged political landscape threatens school districts’ efforts to create a safe environment where all students can learn.
Jennifer Perry Cheatham
5 min read
A leader at a podium coaches a diverse team of rowers with large pencil oars on a boat. Political leadership. Polarization.
Raul Arias for Education Week
School & District Management The Behind-the-Scenes Work of Implementing the ‘Science of Reading’
Principals are at the forefront of rolling out reading reforms. Their starring role, though, is often mistaken for a supporting one.
5 min read
Image of a spotlight on a child reading a book.
Taylor Callery for Education Week
School & District Management When Does a School Closure Become Discriminatory?
Advocates push for federal guidance on protecting students' civil rights in school closure decisions.
6 min read
Image of a neighborhood map with markers on a school building.
Canva
School & District Management Opinion Watch: Two Generations of Educators Reflect on Their Careers
This principal followed his father into education. Together, they reflect on the job.
Kambar BS
Sam Mallon/Education Week