Monday, February 05, 2007

Accountability: Good analogy from Texas Ed

February 5, 2007


There are so many who want education reform based on “running a business” and accountability that I think it’s time to explain the situation in language they should understand.

Let’s pretend that you run a plant nursery. You sell a healthy, well-kept tree to your customer. You give them fertilizer and detailed instructions. You might even go out and check on the tree every so often. If the tree fails to grow because it doesn’t receive enough fertilizer, who’s fault is it?

Or maybe you’re a mechanic and you get a new customer who had been taking his car to another mechanic. The car hasn’t been maintained so you do a tune-up and explain basic maintenance tasks. The customer takes the car home and it breaks down. Are you a bad mechanic?

How about being a doctor and you’re treating a child for asthma and the child keeps having asthma attacks because the parent continues to smoke around the child. (Okay, I’m winging it here since I don’t what all can cause asthma attacks.) Would your treatment of the patient be considered successful?

Of course, in most cases your customers hold up “their side” of the transaction. Even so, as a manager you would need to take account such problem customers as the ones described above when evaluating your employees. You would have to figure which employees have had truly difficult customer situations and which are just using it as an excuse for poor performance.

However, if you were to use the methods suggested from the Texans for Excellence in the Classroom report, you would simply provide the mechanic with three more sessions on how to be a good mechanic. And if the customer’s car breaks down again, fire the mechanic. The doctor would be given special training on dealing with asthma patients and if the child continued to have attacks, her license would be revoked.

As much as people would like to believe otherwise, education reform isn’t going to have a simple, easy solution. It’s not true in business, why should it be in education?

I don’t think all teachers are against being evaluate in their performance. I do think they want and deserve to have extenuating circumstances considered in their evaluations.

You can’t “make” people into good parents by passing laws to make them go to teacher conferences or feed their children five vegetables a day. There is no licensing process you have to go through before you can be a parent even though there are plenty of parents out there who are walking advertisements for such a system.

As long as there is such a large uncontrollable variable that effects the results, it’s not only unfair to the teachers to apply a one size fits all to education accountability, it’s unfair to the student as well. Schools that take the time and energy needed to truly address education deficiencies that originate in the home are penalized.

Do businesses succeed when they focus on short-term earnings for investors or investment in infrastructure and training? Both? It all depends? Do businesses succeed when they take a “one size fits all” approach? Can you think of a better way to set up public schools to fail than demand that “no child be left behind?”

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