The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

Blog Rules

Comments should be respectful and pertain to the topic posted. Comments about personnel matters should be made directly to the administrators responsible. Blog moderators reserve the right to remove any comment determined not in keeping with these guidelines.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Why can't a school be run like a business?

School announcement is on the post below this one. But don't stop reading now!

Have you ever heard someone say, "If they would just run schools like a business...."

Here are several things that make public schools different than private businesses.

1. Public schools have multiple purposes:
When parents were asked to identify goals for public education, they listed the top 5 goals of public schools as: prepare people to become responsible citizens; help people become economically sufficient; ensure a basic level of quality among schools; promote cultural unity; and improve social conditions for people.

Businesses on the other hand are dominated by private rather than public purposes, such as increasing total revenues, net profits, dividends to investors and other bottom-line outcomes. Even seemingly broader social goals such as customer and employee satisfaction are still a means to an end of higher net profits in the private sector. Public purposes are broad and complex reflecting the pluralistic society we live in. Private company goals tend to be focused and "bottom-line" oriented.

Because public and private aims are different, so are the decision-making processes between schools and businesses. This leads to point two:

2. Schools make public decisions through democratic deliberations of policies and practices
If all corporate decisions were opened to investors, journalists and the larger public, the differences between them might soon diminish. Public debate and deliberation is a fundamental difference between running a business and running a school district.

3. Evaluating Success
In recent years schools have been asked to be more like a business by being more "bottom-line" oriented. Unfortunately, standardized test scores is still the most used evaluation method for determining the bottom-line. There is nothing wrong with testing. Yet, go back to point #1 and read the top five goals again. You don't even see Reading, Writing and Math listed as a specific goal. Most parents view Reading, Writing and Math as a way of helping their children achieve some higher personal or social purpose. Good for them. (On a side note - the very first goal of public education was to learn to read The Bible so that the public wouldn't be deceived by "the old deluder Satan." The Old Deluder Satan Law was passed in Massachusetts in 1647.

In summary:

The reason why public schools will never be run like a business is because they are publicly governed not privately managed and they have multiple purposes not a single focus.

The only way to run schools like a business is to take the public out of the public schools. As long the public is part of the equation, and I believe they should be, they will continue to operate under multiple purposes - and that - my friends - is the "bottom-line."

Some content from this post came from, "Why Can't Schools be Like Businesses," by Larry Cuban in The School Administrator, February 2006.

No comments: