Like many in Louisiana, I am an avid LSU fan. I love to witness the sea of purple and gold attire on Saturdays in the fall. And of all of the games that I have attended over the years, I don’t remember ever seeing anyone wearing a shirt sporting allegiance to the NCAA or SEC. Sure, both occasionally become topics of conversation on and around game days, but the focus is most always on the Tigers and whom they’re about to beat. The fans are most concerned with the players on the field, the coach calling plays, and the outcome of the game, not the league office or collegiate sports governing body.
Why is it in education, so much of the attention and power lies with the system, instead of schools? The team we should care most about (the one I believe parents care most about) is that of the teachers and leaders who make up the school. These are the individuals responsible for educating children on a day-to-day basis. Truth be told, many of these adults spend more time with our children than we as parents do. If we’re concerned with the state of education in Baton Rouge, we need to focus more on our schools and less on the school system.
In school systems, the power to make decisions often lies in the hands of elected boards and superintendents – not the schools and school leaders that are closest to children. The central office of a school system is the provider of all resources impacting schools. It manages the buildings, supplies the talent, organizes the school calendar, purchases the textbooks, directs the buses, and decides Wednesday’s lunch is sloppy joes. This is the primary and fatal flaw of the traditional school system: a government-run monopoly insulated from competition, incentivized to create one-size-fits-all structures, and influenced by special interests. Power, resources, and decision-making are not in the hands of educators, rather, they are held in central offices that rarely come in contact with their ultimate customer – children and their families.
In public education, many believe that focusing on the system and the people at the top who run that system will create a trickle down effect to improve schools and education for our kids. Sadly, this approach has not led to meaningful change where it’s needed most, particularly in our own city and state. What if we flipped that? What would be different if we started with a focus on schools and gave real power to the school leaders and educators who run those schools to make decisions and call the plays on behalf of the students they serve?