Today, the Broad Center for the Management of School Systems released 75 Examples of How Bureaucracy Stands in the Way of America’s Students and Teachers.
The interesting list follows this week’s release of the 2012 annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools.
There was the usual “us and them” divide in the PDK/Gallup findings; 48 percent of Americans award their own schools an A or a B, but only 19 percent feel the rest of the schools in the country merit such high grades. But 62 percent are willing to pay more in taxes in order to improve urban public schools And asked the No. 1 problem facing schools, 35 percent of respondents say lack of financial support.
The poll notes stark divisions by political party. Here are highlights from the poll:
•On providing children of illegal immigrants free public education, school lunches, and other benefits, 65 percent of Democrats versus 21 percent of Republicans said “yes.” But overall, the poll found support for providing public education to these children is increasing; 41 percent of Americans favor this, up from 28 percent in 1995.
•Charter schools: Republicans are more supportive (80 percent) than Democrats (54 percent). However, approval declined overall to 66 percent this year from a record 70 percent last year. The public is split in its support of school vouchers, with nearly half (44 percent) believing that we should allow students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense, up 10 percentage points from last year.
•Taxes: Ninety-seven percent of the public agreed that it is very or somewhat important to improve the nation’s urban schools, and almost two of three Americans (62 percent) said they would pay more taxes to provide funds to improve the quality of urban schools. Eighty-nine percent of Americans agree that it is very or somewhat important to close the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students.
•Teacher evaluations: Americans are almost evenly split in requiring teacher evaluations to reflect student scores on standardized tests, with 52 percent in favor. But at least three of four believe that entrance requirements into teacher preparation programs need to be at least as selective as those for engineering, business, pre-law, and pre-medicine.
•Presidential race and education: The poll found that President Barack Obama holds a slight lead (49 percent) over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (44 percent) as the candidate who would strengthen public schools. Overall, 50 percent of Americans view the Democratic party as more interested in improving public education
“While Americans are divided on many issues regarding the direction of our education system, they stand united in agreement on some very important issues,” said William Bushaw, executive director of PDK International and co-director of the PDK/Gallup poll, in a statement. “Most important, it is reassuring to know that, despite the recognition that our schools need improvement, more than 70 percent of Americans do have trust and confidence in our public school teachers.”
With that backdrop, here are a few of the 75 examples of problematic bureaucracy from Broad. Feel free to add a few of your own:
More than one person in a central office may play the same role, meaning resources are unnecessarily duplicated.
When districts use outside vendors, the contract terms often favor the vendors, not districts, because vendors set terms, which means the district unnecessarily loses money.
Waste, fraud and abuse of district resources mean taxpayer dollars intended for classrooms end up elsewhere, sometimes outside of education entirely.
More money is spent on facilities construction and maintenance than is necessary.
Different parts of the organization that manage resources do not communicate with each other, which means that schools and classrooms receive resources like supplies and instructional support inconsistently.
Money is spent on expensive technology that is unused or underused because people aren’t sufficiently trained to use it or it is deemed not necessary after being purchased.
Across the board budget cuts (vs. strategic, targeted cost reductions), operational inefficiencies and administrative overhead mean that too few taxpayer dollars actually reach the classroom.
Teachers often don’t receive the support they need, and many talented Americans don’t even enter the profession
Teachers don’t receive the adequate instructional resources, materials and technology they need to tailor instruction to every student.
Teachers lack access to mentors, master teachers, collaborative planning time, expert lesson plans and best practices to grow professionally by working with their peers.
Teachers lack access to proven interventions for students who are struggling.
Principals often lack the time to support teachers in the classroom because of paperwork and other regulatory burdens (e.g., unnecessary paperwork for central office sign-offs on field trips).
Teachers feel assessments are not appropriately connected to what students should know and be able to do.
Test results throughout the year are provided to teachers too late for them to re-teach subjects and fill gaps in learning before students take high-stakes exams or before the end of the year, so students enter those exams without core knowledge and skills and fall behind grade level.
Teachers do not have the training and support they need to keep an entire classroom of students disciplined, focused on, and excited about learning.
Central office staff and principals are not evaluated regularly nor are they held responsible for teacher or student success.
Even though millions of American children are not able to read or do math at grade level, teachers are nearly always found “effective/satisfactory” on evaluations, because those evaluations are not meaningful, not connected to what teachers actually do and not connected to whether students learn.
Meaningless evaluations leave teachers in the dark as to how they are truly performing and provide little to no guidance on how to improve.
Top teachers are not properly recognized, rewarded or compensated, so they leave the profession.
Teachers are hired without being observed teaching a sample lesson or otherwise evaluated for their actual ability in the classroom, and are instead just screened for a criminal background check and required paper credentials.
Some teachers’ colleges do not effectively prepare future teachers to meet modern student needs.
Many teachers feel frustrated because of poor workplace conditions and have little hope that things will improve.
School boards focus on micromanaging, adult in-fighting, and complying with existing policies and procedures rather than on solving these systematic problems to create environments that support teachers and students and lead to academic achievement.
School boards and committees require district staff to spend excessive time preparing for meetings and reporting to the board, rather than spending time working to directly support teachers and students.
Many elected officials, who are not aware of the scope of hurdles facing these systems and/or whose campaigns were funded by special interests neglect this crisis altogether, or pass laws that attempt to fix one issue (e.g., class size reduction) but which inadvertently cause additional bureaucratic problems (e.g., hiring enough effective teachers to meet the class size mandate).
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog