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Rick May

Relationship Manager, TIAA-CREF

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It seems clear that our current business model is broken. Why can't the basis principles of business be applied to our schools?

The problems in our education system seem to be intractable, based on our current model. Why is it that basic principles of business can not be applied to the business model by which our schools run?

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  • May 17 2013: :-) What is the Purpose of this Education? Is it still just to get a killer job in a cubicle? Or, some Service Job that slowly kills any remnant of independent thinking that may have been left after years of indoctrination.

    Common ground for righteous reformers will be found by asking the question of Purpose.
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    May 17 2013: Because people are not products, nor is education a commodity. It has been turned into one, and this is where we went wrong. Politicians and business people have ingrained the need for returns on investment for their budget. When students to not meet some measurement, they have failed. Then the call for more money for - whatever! - arrive very quickly. But there is nothing presented as to what the extra money will achieve. But political masters want results, KPIs, KRAs etc to see what their money is paying for.

    We have forgotten that not everybody wants a life of education, they want to work, they do not want to go to university or college or whatever. As Sir Ken Robinson states, "education is not a mechanical system, it is a human system".

    We need to return education to what its role truly is for: setting people up for a future. Whatever it is they choose!
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    R H 20+

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    May 16 2013: I would say that educating children is not a business. Children are not 'products' to be managed. It is not a least-cost/high-return enterprise. There are not consistent 'raw materials' for production, There is no exclusion of 'raw material' used to 'produce' - all 'material' presented must be 'utilized'. There is, therefore, no consistency of 'output', yet the result of the 'output' has significant effect on 'the market', with no definite expiration date. No 'product' can be discarded - all 'go to market'. The 'warranty' is indefinite, with no 'maintenance' required. . The 'board of directors' of each enterprise are not required to be well versed in the field, or have any credentials or qualifications. This 'business plan' would be denied by any funder. Therefore, you don't have a business. What you do have, in my opinion, is the most critically important social service on the planet - Human development. This is the driver of the enterprise. Any accounting/business principles cannot 'be applied' to this enterprise, they are merely servants of it, with no say whatsoever in it's administration.
  • May 19 2013: "Why can't the basis principles of business be applied to our schools?"

    Because they are publicly funded. When you understand all the issues around that, you will understand why schools are in the condition they are in. Guaranteed revenue, guaranteed jobs, and no competition all lead to poor performance. Currently, the majority of US society is agreeing to violate the rights of the minority and take their money to fund other people's education - this is immoral to anyone who thinks that theft is immoral (and to anyone who really understands liberty). Education would be much better off if it were funded completely privately, with those who claim to think it is important organizing and donating to create systems of free schooling for the needy. Since people have no understanding of freedom, the next best solution would be a voucher that kids could take to any school. (Coupled with at-will employment of all teachers and forbidden unionization). That would at least force competition for students and teaching positions and drive up quality while driving down cost. Then you still have the issue of special education in which a single resource that could be teaching 20 kids is applied to a single student. So who is more selfish? The person who doesn't want to pay for that or the person to accepts those services financed by their neighbors? So you also need to deregulate as much as possible.
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    May 18 2013: If the principals of business are defined as profit goals and focus is on ROI then maybe not so much. But, if you are considering organizational management and utilization of resources to effect an outcome and well educated young adults is a noble outcome, then I believe organizational skills are badly needed in most public school systems
  • May 18 2013: not really,I think they can be run in the same principles.But not now,because current business just focus on self benefit not the whole social benefit:)
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    May 16 2013: As school districts have experimented over the decades with having educators, CEOs, and generals at the helm, there ought to be empirical evidence of how different systems of management and organization have worked out. There is also an extensive record of charter schools and of private schools.

    Some districts have performance pay systems, which is another market-like device.

    There are also in many places policies like open enrollment that allow parents to select schools based on information about teacher quality and student performance.

    Which principles of business are you most interested in seeing in action?
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      May 17 2013: Free Market principles.

      Metrics can be a tricky, the free market is the one genuine touch stone.
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    May 16 2013: Rick, Pat stated it well. The textbook publishers, test writers, and the nest eggers and thier unions have brought the system to its knees and have no intention of revising the system to be effective as it would "cost" them.

    I have completed the math of hiring a MBA to run the district, thus aligning it as a business. Principals would be in charge of the academics and the MBA all operations and the business of the district. If done properly a great savings would occur.

    However that only address the local factors. The major problem still would exist ... control has went to Washington and the state politicians to decide the fate of education. That is the equivlant of calling your accountant to perform major surgery. The government has proven itself to be the worst administrator of all time.

    If we maintain the current path only a monitor will be required in the classroom as all of the options of the teacher have been stripped. Arne Duncan has stated he desires the federal government to develop, print, and distribute all text books and to develop, administer, and grade all tests. The amazing thing is that teachers and educational unions are all falling in line with his desires .... under his socilistic ideals they will all be deminished in position and authority. A local community college has already reduced all adjunct professors and all maintenance and support personnel to 25 hours a week as a counter to the Obamacare requirements. 1600 local people. All other schools and companies will follow suit as the work week according to Obamacare is 30 hours per week.

    In summary: Yep it can be done. It would require all of the carpetbaggers to be pushed out of the way. You would have to start by eliminating the cabnet post of Dept of ED and then giving the power back to the states and the states releasing the power back to the local districts ... wow what a concept ... we would be back to .. WE THE PEOPLE.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      May 16 2013: Robert, could you provide a link with evidence that teachers support a proposal that the federal government would "administer and grade all tests?" This sounds like a misunderstanding.

      Are you sure this isn't more like, "if you are going to mandate that our kids take a standardized test each Spring that you wrote over at headquarters, please plan to handle the administration and grading yourself?" I do know that schools and teachers dislike unfunded mandates (like "Here, give this and grade it") as well as losing time to standardized testing. Teachers and administrators in the building typically see standardized tests as somewhere between a necessary and an entirely unnecessary evil.
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    May 16 2013: question: why does the state mandate school system, curriculum, tests, etc?
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    May 16 2013: Too many people have been co opted into the public trough, they will justify it in a million ways, but at the end of the day this country will be unrecognizable in the not to distant future. This is a math problem which is a genuine inconvenient truth.