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
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
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
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

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 Quiz What Do You Know About the Most Influential People in School Districts? Take Our Quiz
Answer 7 questions about the superintendent profession.
1 min read
Image of icons for gender, pay, demographics.
Canva
School & District Management Opinion I Invited My Students to Be the Principal for a Day. Here’s What I Learned
When I felt myself slipping into a springtime slump, this simple activity reminded me of my “why” as an educator.
S. Kambar Khoshaba
4 min read
052024 OPINION Khoshaba PRINCIPAL end the year with positivity
E+/Getty + Vanessa Solis/Education Week via Canva
School & District Management The Complicated Fight Over Four-Day School Weeks
Missouri lawmakers want to encourage large districts to maintain five-day weeks—even as four-day weeks grow more popular.
7 min read
Calendar 4 day week
iStock/Getty
School & District Management From Our Research Center Principal Salaries: The Gap Between Expectation and Reality
Exclusive survey data indicate a gap between the expectations and the realities of principal pay.
4 min read
A Black woman is standing on a ladder and looking into the distance with binoculars, in the background is an ascending arrow.
iStock/Getty