Shouldn't educators craft education policy?

It sounds like a stupid question, but sometimes those are the best kind.

I am not an educator. But in my layman’s observation of schools systems and education policies, I know that the last thing we need is to apply business models to classrooms. This “classroom as cubicle” thinking that characterizes so many charter schools’ method0logies and get’s them business loans to creat schools fails for the same reason our banking system failed:

The more one focuses on a singular indicator, the more corrupt one becomes.

Banks & businesses focused on short-term profits sacrificed responsible risk management and long-term viability. It is unacceptable to think that sacrificing the long-term quality of our children’s education is a good way to think about reforming education.

Measurement without context is a brain without a body.

Instead, I’d like to see a reform approach proposed and supported by a coalition of education practitioners, teachers, administrators, and researchers who can speak to what works in the classroom.

  • I want these people to be the ones that determine how to contextualize reading comprehension, writing, math and science test data.
  • I want these individuals to collaboratively design a framework for measuring teacher, school, district, and policy metrics, performance, rewards and repercussions.
  • I want this coalition to be represented in the Department of Education and in a meaningful way.

I don’t know how to address these and other challenges, but these people do. We must trust and respect that. After all, public policy not designed by the people it touches should be called what it is: unkept promises.

Our New Education Secretary disagrees with me

Arne Duncan, our new Secretary of Education was never a teacher or administrator. He gave his first testimony to the House Education and Labor Committee this week. I am especially perturbed by Secretary Duncan’s affinity towards charter schools:

Successful, respected educators agree with me

Deborah Meier

Deborah Meier

Teacher, Principal, author, child advocate, and leader of the Small Schools movment Deborah Meier posed this question and gave other critiques of today’s thinking on education reform on Democracy Now! yesterday:

Why do we have a Department of Education that is led by so few actual educators?

She went on to criticize the cracking of the door towards more support for charter schools, and eviscerated the notion that a business mindset will fix education:

Unfortunately, many believe that only people that know how to manipulate money know how to change the world for the better.

Who do you agree with?

One Love. One II.



About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

4 responses to “Shouldn't educators craft education policy?”

  1. Tyler says :

    Unfortunately, this question is a false choice – I think we need a bit of both.

    I do think that educators should be held to a standard. I think its absurd that it is so difficult to fire a teacher (at all levels). I think if you’re a bad teacher, you should be fired. That “business model” idea makes perfect sense to me.

    That said, i don’t think business men should devise assessments of teachers and students without educators input. I even lean toward thinking they should stay out of this stuff entirely, but I do think that we should hold teachers accountable. I just think teachers know best what that means and how to do that. I don’t think the businessman’s notion of education as something that is easily quantifiable makes any damn sense, but I do think we need to rethink what it means to teach, to learn, and to have a “successful” school.

    To me, if you move a quarter of your class from non-proficient to barely proficient in one year, you manage a class of 40 ragamuffins with all kinds of issues, and you manage to keep kids from being excessively truant…then that’s success to me. The point I make is that educating is so much more than what the coursework is. Teachers deal with so much more than the material. Their ability to manage every aspect of the classroom should be taken into account.

    Perhaps what we should do is include some business principles in the coursework and the subsequent professional development part of the credentialing process, that way some of what is good about the way a business is run can be organically worked into the education sector. That, or we need some business-education partnerships.

  2. Garlin II says :

    @Tyler, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    We agree that standard-less teaching hiring/compensation/evaluation are abject failures of reason and do students and schools a great disservice. I know all too wll the impact of broken rewards systems in school districts. A bad teach should be let go just like a bad police officer, a bad computer programmer, or a bad president. When I write: “I want these individuals to collaboratively design a framework for measuring teacher, school, district, and policy metrics, performance, rewards and repercussions,” I am calling for accountability that makes sense, not seeking to remove accountability altogether.

    I agree with your characterization of how success for teachers and students should be defined: in a much more broad way than test scores. The issue I see is that the charter school movement that’s gaining steam and is supported by Sec. Duncan doesn’t seem to move us towards that more holistic, nuanced way of thinking.

    One Love. One II.

  3. Mike says :

    Hi, nice posts there 🙂 thank’s for the interesting information

  4. David says :

    very nice & interesting. good luck

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