Monday, February 04, 2013

Jay Matthew Open to Relinquisher Approach

It’s good to see that Jay Mathews, the best education reporter/writer in America, is open to the relinquisher approach:

As I interpret Smarick’s idea, Henderson could keep her title of D.C. schools chancellor but get a different and more powerful assignment. She would sit atop three separate entities, the old D.C. school system, the D.C. charters and a collection of private schools willing to meet certain achievement goals in return for some support. She would not run these schools, but would reward and punish those in charge. She would have the power to start new schools and close old ones.

Henderson would oversee what Smarick calls the five pillars of the new system: expanding and replicating schools proven to be effective, closing ineffective schools, starting promising new schools, ensuring a variety of school types and school authorizers, and making sure families have many choices.

If you don’t like charter schools, you won’t like Smarick’s book. He adheres to the charter advocate’s creed that urban school systems can improve only ifthey embrace change. By adding good schools and subtracting bad ones with rapidity, “we have the potential to drastically improve the educational opportunities of our nation’s most disadvantaged students,” he writes.
I receive many education books in the mail. I toss most of them out because they are irrelevant or impractical. Smarick’s book was relevant but was losing on practicality grounds until I read Brown’s piece on the District’s bleak future.

If it got that bad, I thought, something as extreme as the Smarick plan could happen. I’m not saying it would have the benefits Smarick predicts, but trying it would be interesting and maybe useful.

New Orleans is already heading in that direction. It became fertile ground for radical reform only because a hurricane removed much of the old regime that would have squashed such changes, as Smarick notes often in his book.

Are D.C. schools so bad they might also resort to a public-charter-private massive realignment? Maybe.

A few other cities that have run out of practical options, such as Detroit, might follow suit. Such places can’t get any worse. They might be tempted by a hurricane of an idea, no matter how much trouble it causes.

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