The contract idea is ideological, not empirical. There is no evidence to suggest contracts will improve education, just a deep-seated belief that a business model is the best way to go.
What is particularly frightening is the awarding of contracts to whoever makes a successful pitch.
School committees could convert existing schools to Readiness status or develop new schools. Readiness Schools could be proposed by a team of teachers, a principal, a superintendent, unions, qualified educational management organizations, a group of parents, community-based organizations or qualified charter school operators.
Of all these potential “teams,” which are best suited toward making a pitch for a Readiness School? Unions may be permitted do it, but they are in the labor-organization business, not the school management business. “A group of teachers could, in effect, create their own ‘educational private practice,’ assuming management and operational responsibility for their own school under terms authorized by the local school committee.”
An important question is, why can’t schools, under the existing structure, have the same responsibilities and flexibilities? The Readiness Project is ready to offer increased flexibility and responsibility, but only under a charter school model. Since the inception of education reform, regular public schools, if anything, have been denied flexibility.
Teachers, principals, and superintendents are in the education business, but how difficult would it be for them to receive approval to be able to make the pitch? Only the educational management organizations and charter school operators have the infrastructure ready to go.
The potential for Readiness Schools also puts the honus on school committees to screen “offers” to takeover their schools. The role of school committees oversee educational and set policy, most lack the educational knowledge and expertise to judge such offers. Most school committees consist of 5 members. Could three school committee members (a majority vote) decide who manages their schools?
Readiness Schools could also turn out to used as a threat against teachers unions in negotiations. School committees could wave the possibility of a school takeover to gain concessions from at the bargaining table.
The project seems to allow room for “union members who bargain collectively only for wages, benefits and due process dismissal procedures.” The word that concerns me is only. What’s being left out? Could Readiness schools increase the school day by an hour without a corresponding increase in pay? How about increasing class sizes? Could the leadership teams of such schools work to drive out unions?
Readiness Schools would have increased autonomy in five areas: staffing, budget, curriculum and assessment, governance and policies, and school schedule and calendar…. The leadership of each Readiness School would establish the operating standards in each of these five areas, with significant input from faculty and staff.
The devil, as they say is in the details, and like the typical Patrick proposal, the important details are in the mail. When I think about it, the Patrick Administration is starting to remind me of Microsoft: offering programs that replace things that work with features you don’t need, all at a price you can’t afford.