Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Letting Schools Fail

This is brief, and with luck I'll get to expand on it later. Education in New Orleans is in an experimental stage right now, and lots going on that I keep finding out about is worth taking note of.

I'll go with something that is a little bleak. School are now getting closer and closer to a business motive, not yet attached to a true profit motive, but getting close . Money is linked to tests, schools that produce kids who do well on tests continue to get money, and in New Orleans, there are a few dozen different approaches being presented as to how these schools work. The Cowen Institute is emerging as a big player, and Cowen (while president of Tulane) is a business man. His ideas and his input for how to make things work come from the world of business, and so we are seeing an interesting new direction. At its best, schools function like franchises, and are given enough freedoms to fix problems, initiate new programs, and act quickly. At its worst, schools can fail to the point of what would be bankruptcy, at which point in the business world the failed model is culled from the herd, and the customers go elsewhere.

In order for this new experiment of New Orleans schools to succeed, the best has to be differentiated from the worst by some sort of culling process, and the end result of this is two-fold - A new, functioning system is designed, and some students who had the misfortune to go to failed schools are screwed. For the business model to work, this has to be present, and at the moment I'm looking at both a capitalist dream and a civic failure, that may well look like a success for both in eighty years, but it will take the death of every student screwed over to leave this as a clean slate.


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