School District Superintendent: The World’s Most Difficult Unnecessary Job || John Merrifield || Sept 26, 2013
“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
— Winston Churchill
The evidence is there on both counts (very difficult, unnecessary), as is the basis to believe it. It is very difficult to serve any diverse clientele with a uniform product. But that’s what school district superintendents must aim for. Decades of widespread, alarmingly low performance suggest that it is mission impossible. But their task persists, and why not. The appearance of fairness that demands the uniformity is a virtual political imperative, and the high stress job of an urban superintendent is well-compensated. The high turnover rates of highly paid urban superintendents attests to the desperate search for someone capable of doing the impossible, or deviating from the mission impossible script while staying sufficiently politically correct to stay employed. It is also an unnecessary job, even within a system not much different than the one we have. With accountability to their clients, principals can run their schools. Continue reading
Equity Math for a Transformed System || John Merrifield || June 2, 2016
Suppose we provide a high minimum level of per-pupil public funding to anyone wanting to exit their assigned public school, and independent schools – charter or private – can charge whatever the market would bear. Markets would then set tuition rates; often at the per-pupil public funding (‘free’) amount, but sometimes above. Market entry would drive tuition rates down to just the level needed to finance and sustain efficient operations, including a normal rate of return on investment. Purveyors of poorly conceived instructional approaches would not be able to recruit enough schoolchildren to cover their expenses. But purveyors of some well-conceived instructional approaches would be able to charge more than the per pupil public funding; a 3rd party co-payment. Continue reading
Arons, Stephen. 1997. Short Route To Chaos: Conscience, Community, and the Re-constitution of American Schooling. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
Gatto, John Taylor. 1993. The Exhausted School. Oxford: The Oxford Village Press.
McCluskey, Neal P. 2007. “Why We Fight: How Public Schools Cause Social Conflict.” Cato Institute Policy Analysis #587. http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa587.pdf
Powell, Arthur G, Eleanor Farrar and David K Cohen. 1985. The Shopping Mall High School: Winners and Losers in the Educational Marketplace (Boston: Houghton Mifflin). Continue reading
Free-Only, Subsidized Schooling: A Priceless Equity Disaster || John Merrifield || April 22, 2014
Like so many other well-intentioned government rules, mandating free-only (no tuition charge) public schooling, and perhaps also free-only publically subsidized schooling options, arguably achieves the opposite of the intended result. It likely has a net negative effect on equity rather than the widely assumed significant net benefit to the lowest income families. Continue reading
Washington State’s Big Spenders are Slow Learners || John Merrifield || November 30, 2014
After having little to show for a nearly 30% increase in public school spending by her administration, previous Governor Christine Gregoire (D – WA) said,
“I came in here determined to make the system work better. I put a lot more money into K–12. But then you sit there and say, “Why have I not been able to get the result I set out to achieve?”