Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
Opinion
School & District Management Opinion

Why DC Mayor Fenty’s and Chancellor Rhee’s Approach Schools Reorganization Matters to the School Improvement Providers

December 13, 2007 2 min read

Why is edbizbuzz “picking on” District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s in their efforts to reorganize that city’s troubled system? There are plenty of other dysfunctional urban districts, what’s so special about their problematic approach to management? Why should a blogspace devoted to the emerging school improvement industry spend so much time on what’s happening in one school district? What’s the relationship between Rhee and the industry?
Although it may be a neglected child, the school improvement industry was borne of the school reform movement. Philosophically, the industry springs from the idea that neither state socialism – in the form of the traditional centrally managed school district, nor state capitalism – in the form of the publishing oligarchy have the capacity to improve student performance, nor much interest, and so a new form of private sector entrepreneurship is needed.

Politically and as a matter of legislation this idea has taken three forms:

• Vouchers, to make public education an entirely consumer-driven market;

• Decentralization, expressed mostly as charters and including the idea of charter districts, where individual public schools are held accountable to consumers and to government for performance; and

• Rightsizing, reinventing the school district as a “better, faster, cheaper” centrally-managed organization by bringing in leaders with a corporate mentality, and applying business “best practices” to district operations.

The future of the school improvement industry lies with the second option. Vouchers remain so divisive politically that they simply cannot serve as the basis of any private firm’s business plan. By leaving sole decision authority in the center, rightsizing only assures a continuation of the old education industry – publishers and the superintendent’s friends. Only decentralization gives the still tiny school improvement firms the market they need to compete and grow.

The strategy pursued by Fenty and Rhee is not in the best interests of school reform for the reasons discussed in many other postings. It is not in the best interests of students for the same reason that no central authority knows local students’ better than local school. It is not in the best interests of teachers who can succeed without the paternalistic vision of a new great leader every few years. And it is not in the best interests of the school improvement industry because centralization with a corporate face will favor firms with the scale required to support large one-size-fits-all district-wide school contracts and a few people with ties to the Chancellor. State capitalism is not a market.

Related Tags:

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

Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.
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
School & District Management Webinar
The 4 Biggest Challenges of MTSS During Remote Learning: How Districts Are Adapting
Leaders share ways they have overcome the biggest obstacles of adapting a MTSS or RTI framework in a hybrid or remote learning environment.
Content provided by Panorama Education
Student Well-Being Online Summit Keeping Students and Teachers Motivated and Engaged
Join experts to learn how to address teacher morale, identify students with low engagement, and share what is working in remote learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Join us for our NBOE 2021 Winter Teacher Virtual Interview Fair!
Newark, New Jersey
Newark Public Schools
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago
Assistant Director of Technical Solutions
Working from home
EdGems Math LLC

Read Next

School & District Management ‘Spying’ on Teachers? District Accused of Scouring for Staff Flouting COVID-19 Safety
A Fla. district used social media posts of teachers partying, traveling, & maskless to undercut their union's argument for working remotely.
Scott Travis
4 min read
Image shows close up of a line art eye with a group of people silhouetted in the reflection of the pupil.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week (Images: filo/DigitalVision Vectors + Getty)
School & District Management Opinion Parents Berating Teachers? Making Decisions Without the Data? Advice for Principals
A year marred by COVID-19 has created new challenges for principals. Here are some answers.
6 min read
Principal Advice SOC
Getty and Vanessa Solis/Education Week
School & District Management Student Mental Health and Learning Loss Continue to Worry Principals
Months into the pandemic, elementary principals say they still want training in crucial areas to help students who are struggling.
3 min read
Student sitting alone with empty chairs around her.
Maria Casinos/iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion A Road Map for Education Research in a Crisis
Here are five basic principles for a responsible and timely research agenda during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robin J. Lake
4 min read
Two opposing sides reaching out to work together
J.R. Bee for Education Week