Administration · Legislation

3 reasons we can’t treat schools as businesses

There’s a growing trend to want to treat schools as businesses – from pay-for-performance evaluations and ratings systems to the redesign and restructuring of districts and central offices, teachers are the line or office workers, and principals and superintendents are the bosses and CEOs. Before this goes any further, I want to point out a few reasons why this simply won’t work:

1. Kids are not products. They’re humans.

This is by far the most compelling reason. We can run reports and do data analysis in PLC meetings until our faces turn blue, but at the end of the day, there are circumstances with a direct impact on student achievement that are simply beyond our control – some good, some bad. I firmly believe that, as an educator, it’s important to know the circumference of your locus of control. It can be hugely beneficial to expand that. But it’s also essential to be able to know where lines must be drawn – teachers who don’t are the ones who burn out or give up.

Furthermore, humans are unpredictable. Circumstances aside, a student will not always be in the best state to show what they know and can do, and there are times that no one else can change that. Thus, it’s not realistic to judge teachers based on one test that their students take on one day, like we are wont to do with high-stakes testing and state accountability measures.

2. We can’t ask for raises.

An oft-lauded skill for women working their way up in business (and one that men are assumed to have), asking for a raise is just not an option. Sure, we ask for money in other ways – professional development funding, classroom supplies, field trip chaperones and parent volunteers – but 1.) if we are in teaching for the money, we’re in the wrong profession; and 2.) if we don’t like what we get paid, tough. We deal with it. MAYBE we go to another district and start over with a new classroom and new administration (usually, we get a second job). But what we simply cannot do is ask our principal or superintendent or anyone else for more money. Mostly, they don’t have it. It’s just laughable.

3. The path forward does not involve “working our ways up” from teaching to administration, because those require different skill sets.

There’s no real way for teachers to get a promotion. We can apply for and receive an entirely DIFFERENT position with a new job description, but if I am doing exceptional things in my classroom, getting noticed by not only my administrators but district- or state-level officials, sending kids on to the best high schools or colleges…I keep teaching. If these things WERE to happen to me (spoiler alert: they haven’t [yet!]), I would definitely feel a sense of guilt leaving the classroom, as if I were sacrificing my gift. Anyway…

What do you think? Is pegging schools as businesses fair, after all? Diane Ravitch thinks not, while others insist that it can be beneficial. Is there a better comparison to be made?


B T Bubble Sheet


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