Our second post this week on the United States’ unstable orbit around mediocrity focuses on Matt Miller’s critique of education in America from the January/February 2008 Atlantic Monthly: “First, kill all the school boards.” He writes that “local control has become a disaster for our schools” and that school districts are stunted by four key problems:
- No way to know how children are doing. And, NCLB is not helping.
- Stunted R&D: “Local control has kept education from attracting the research and development that drives progress, because benefits of scale are absent.”
- Incompetent school boards and union dominance. (No need to elaborate on this one…)
- Financial inequity: “Communities with high property wealth can tax themselves at low rates and still generate far more dollars per pupil than poor communities taxing themselves heavily.”
The solution he argues? Get rid of school boards and remove local control of schools. It may seem counter-intuitive, but…
Research in 46 countries by Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich has shown that setting clear external standards while granting real discretion to schools in how to meet them is the most effective way to run a system. We need to give schools one set of national expectations, free educators and parents to collaborate locally in whatever ways work, and get everything else out of the way.
More solutions to mediocrity in American education are coming up next week.