The basic business principles school reformers ignore

Apr 22, 2013 by

By Robert D. Shepherd –

There’s an old story that business people tell. You’ve probably heard it. I’ve heard it many times and have no idea where it came from. (All these stories end up being attributed to Warren Buffett, who is, of course, a masterful storyteller.) A grocer buys a hundred watermelons for $8 a piece. He puts them on display for $10. No one buys. He lowers the price, first to $9, then to $8, then to $7. The watermelons sell out. Wow, the grocer thinks, if only I had bought a hundred more of those melons! The moral is clear: When something isn’t working, doing more of the same is a stupid mistake.

But that is precisely what we are doing with the new Common Core State Standards, high-stakes tests, and teacher evaluation systems being rolled out around the country. We’ve had 10 years of failed mandatory state standards, high-stakes tests, and evaluations of educators based on test scores, of an accountability policy that has turned our K-12 schools into test prep factories. In schools across the nation, now, a third of each school year is spent doing test prep, taking practice tests, and taking high-stakes tests. That’s failed. It has clearly, utterly failed. And so we’ve decided to do a lot more of that.

What’s behind the push for ratcheting up standards, high-stakes tests, and evaluation systems based on those? Well, a lot of very powerful politicians and business interests want to apply a business model to bring about education “reform.” They are attempting to apply to education the business principle that you get what you measure. Fine, but in doing this, they are violating a number of other fundamental principles of good business that the reformers ought to be thinking about. Business people ought to understand better than anyone that real change, real reform, real improvement happens when competing models vie with one another in a free marketplace.

via The basic business principles school reformers ignore.

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