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A Portfolio Approach to Public Schools

Ohanian Comment: Here's the 'progressive' democrats' spin on education reform, filled with lots of blather about competition and the global economy.

You've never seen "portfolio" defined this way.

For the full report, go to the pdf file below.

Remember, this diabolical plan is brought to you by the Third Way Democrats, straight out of the Democratic Leadership Council. Here is a direct quote from the Progressive Policy Institute Website: Called "Bill Clinton's idea mill," the Institute's research and proposals were the source for many of the "New Democrat" themes that figured prominently in national politics during the 1990s. PPI also has been integral to the spread of "Third Way" thinking to center-left parties around the world.

With center-left Democrats like this, who needs to be scared of Republicans?

Here is a description of what it would be like to be a teacher, principal, and school board member in Hill's system.

Teachers: Educators would work in
schools that choose to hire them and
would negotiate their salaries with their
employers. That holds true whether they
continued to work for the school district,
an individual school, or a contractor providing
teachers with specific skills to a
variety of schools, such as expertise teaching
for AP courses. Teachers who proved
to be highly successful at improving student
achievement or attracting enrollment
would command premiums and have a
great deal of leverage over their assignments
and working conditions. Teachers
with good reputations or rare skills would
have their pick among many schools,
while teachers with bad reputations
would have difficulty finding work and
may have to leave the profession. The
new system would also preserve important
roles for teacher unions as professional
associations, job placement experts, and
representatives for teachers when
employers renege on employment

Principals: Like teachers, principals and
other school leaders would work in a
professional labor market. They would
negotiate single- or multi-year contracts
with their employers, who could be
boards of directors at individual schools,
firms operating multiple schools, or the
citywide school board. School heads
would manage school budgets and
decide how much to pay for teachers,
materials, technology, and supplementary
educational experiences. In order to
stabilize funding, school heads would
have to attract a steady clientele of
students and be sure their schools do not
become ineligible for public support due
to low performance.

School board members and superintendents:
District leaders would be
portfolio managers overseeing performance
agreements, some with individual
schools and some with groups of schools.
To do their jobs, district leaders would
need employees or contractors to
administer tests, assess school progress,
identify schools in trouble, and suggest
corrective action. District leaders would
also act as venture capitalists, encouraging
the creation of a variety of
different types of schools, both to fill unmet
needs and to ensure that all existing
schools experience the pressure of

Are you ready for the revolution?

By Paul T. Hill


Despite nearly two decades of reform initiatives, we still do not know how to provide effective schools for millions of poor and minority students. Half of all poor, immigrant, and minority children never earn a regular high school diploma. In many cities, more than 30 percent of all low-income African- American students score below the bottom 10th percentile on national reading and math tests.

We also do not know exactly what all youngsters will need in order to meet the demands of the fast-changing global economy. Surely, all students will need to read, write, and reason mathematically, but what else? Today's workers need skills that were not even considered important 30 years ago, and there is little reason to think that 30 years from now schools will not find themselves in a similar position.

These realities demand new educational approaches that allow for various types of schools that have the freedom to innovate to meet students' unique needs. However, our public education system is incapable of such problem solving because it is oriented in precisely the wrong direction. Today, public education policies and administrations are organized to serve the needs of the institutions and the adults that work in them.

Addressing our stunning achievement gaps, particularly those affecting minority students in our cities, means that students, not the system, must become the primary organizing principle for educational policies -- and, more importantly, for schools themselves.

Today's public school system tolerates new ideas only on a small scale and it does so largely to reduce pressures for broader change. The current system is intended to advance individual, community, and national goals, but is, in fact, engineered for stability. That is normally a good thing. We want schools to open on time, teachers to count on having jobs from one day to the next, and parents to feel secure knowing that their children will have a place to go to school.

Stability alone, however, is the wrong goal in a complex, fast-changing, modern economy. Students -- disadvantaged students, in particular -- need schools that are focused on providing them with the skills they will need to succeed in today's society, schools that are flexible enough to try a variety of teaching methods until they succeed in reaching these goals. The existing structure of public education, and most of today's schools, were not built to serve students with special needs and it does not work for them.

Paul T. Hill is a research professor at the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. He also directs the Center on Reinventing Public Education and is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, having previously directed Brookings's National Working Commission on Choice in K-12 Education.

— Paul T. Hill
Progressive Policy Institute Policy Report





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