Strickland Should Use Charter Schools To Help Fulfill His Promise: “Reform and Renew the System of Education Itself”

Governor Ted Strickland, in his inaugural speech last January, made a big commitment to reform Ohio education. He said, “The goal of making our schools and colleges work cannot be achieved with simply more and more money. We must be willing and brave enough to take bold steps to reform and renew the system of education itself.” Since the time of that speech, Ohioans have been waiting to see what steps toward education reform that Strickland would advance.

Strickland’s promise to reform “the system of education itself,” suggests that Strickland is thinking of applying “total quality” reforms to Ohio’s schools. The “Total Quality Management” (TQM) movement, much written about, particularly impacted the American auto industry; TQM was a response to the quality challenge of Japanese and German manufacturers and was inspired by quality gurus such as W. Edwards Deming.

TQM theory could be applied to educational systems and it would be encouraging to know that Strickland, in fact, is being influenced by TQM thinking. TQM sees quality as flowing from “the system itself,” and emphasizes that the key to quality is organizational structure and overall management. Deming made the astounding claim that 85% of quality issues are determined by organizational structure, and that only 15% of quality issues are determined by personnel qualifications, work rules, etc.

TQM would give Strickland a comprehensive strategy by which to attack the issue of how to reform schools. What most school reforms emphasize is strategies for tinkering with the 15% of quality issues, and this tinkering, usually expensive, always results in disappointment. TQM demands that management deal with the crucial 85% — the system’s organizational structure. The reform of organizational structure is the reform that public education in Ohio needs, and, it sounds like Strickland wants to move this type of major reform toward reality.

The power of overall organizational structure to influence quality is illustrated by the poor quality produced by communist factories. While communist East Germany, prior to 1989, was producing the lemon car called the Trabant, capitalist West Germany was producing quality autos like the Volkswagen and the Mercedes. The Trabant factory was organized inefficiently and was kept going by government subsidies. Tinkering with the Trabant production — through imposing ever more government inspections or through new rewards and punishments for its workers or through new management rules — failed to change the Trabant into a quality product. Only a vast change in organizational structure could have had the quality impact that was needed and the political will to make such massive change never materialized.

When Strickland, or any objective observer, looks over Ohio’s education system, the Trabant comes more to mind than the Volkswagen, and certainly more so than the Mercedes. The Trabant sought to satisfy its bosses by meeting minimum requirements, the Mercedes sought to delight its customers by establishing ever new standards of unexpected quality. Regardless of their poor quality, the Trabant was the only choice for East Germans and was protected and advocated by powerful East German politicians and opinion makers, so, East Germans, pawns in the system, worked hard and waited many months to qualify for a Trabant purchase.

Ohio citizens have a lemon in their education system, a lemon that is protected and advocated by powerful politicians and by a faulty evaluation system that unjustifiably puffs districts up with the inflated rating of “excellent.” (See my article.) The only way to transform this lemon is through fundamental system change.

To change Ohio’s education system from one focused on producing government minimums, ala the Trabant, to one focused on releasing the tremendous potential for quality of Ohio citizens, ala the Mercedes, is an awesome goal. Such transformation will require years and much effort and the only impetus that will bring about such transformation is public demand. But, a public that buys the idea that a state rating of “excellent” of its schools is valid, is not a public that is looking for much school reform. If the public could see the quality of a Mercedes, if the public could see that acquiring a Mercedes involves no additional cost, the public would demand a Mercedes model for its schools. Ohio law gives local boards of education tremendous authority to organize local schools according to the desires of local citizens — the problem is, without good alternatives, the desires of local citizens are focused on the Trabant.

Charter schools were supposed to herald system change by developing and bringing to reality new examples of quality education. But charter schools have never seriously tried to produce quality alternatives, but instead, have basically copied the failed and inadequate structures of public education. Charter schools have copied the structure of pubic schools that rely on hierarchical boss control, minimum standards and mass inspection; charter schools have copied the public schools practice of giving the most generous remuneration to administration, and have copied public school practices that degrades the role of teachers. Charter schools, under incompetent Republican administration, have failed to produce market alternatives of quality, and, at best, have barely met minimum standards. Where charter schools have shown success is in finding the means to enrich unscrupulous entrepreneurs via never ending public funds.

Attempting to change the basic organizational structure of public schools would be fiercely resisted. The question would arise: why should we change our school system if it is already rated “excellent”? The only way that public education will change is through public demand, and public demand will only be generated through the demonstration of powerful alternative school models. Quality charter schools would provide the best opportunity to demonstrate how, through reorganization, schools could save money and at the same time how schools could achieve new high standards of quality. Reconstituted charter schools of quality, I believe, would inspire public demand that would press local boards to take the hard steps of authentic reform. Local boards, comforted by an entrenched education establishment, will not give up on their Trabant thinking unless they see powerful examples of what positive reform can accomplish, and unless their public demands reform.

Gov. Strickland was recently quoted in the NY Times about charter schools: “Perhaps somewhere, charter schools have been implemented in a defensible manner, where they have provided quality. But the way they’ve been implemented in Ohio has been shameful. I think charter schools have been harmful, very harmful, to Ohio students.”

Yes, charter schools in Ohio have been a disappointment, but, Strickland should not take the easy political path and simply discard them. Gov. Strickland should enlist the educational community, and should provide strong incentives for participation, to think through defensible models for exemplary charter schools, models based on sound education and motivation theory and sound principles of organizational structure. The process for soliciting and rewarding participation could be through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

If Strickland truly could, “be willing and brave enough to take bold steps to reform and renew the system of education itself,” he would transform Ohio’s current doldrums into an exciting hope of a great future. Charter schools offer a powerful opportunity. Charter schools, rightly developed and rightly administered, could be an important part of a comprehensive bold school reform strategy. Gov. Strickland, in order to meet his goal of system renewal, should develop exemplary charter schools and use these good examples of school reform to stimulate public demand for authentic and widespread school system reform.

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18 comments to Strickland Should Use Charter Schools To Help Fulfill His Promise: “Reform and Renew the System of Education Itself”

  • Mike, why do you think it is more important for the Governor to develop “exemplary charter schools” than to focus on fixing our public educations system.?
    I am not convinced that the Charters are doing any better overall than public schools, with [exceptions on both sides].

    Local boards are also severely constrained by the unfunded demands of “No Child Left Behind” and the state [republican] legislature that writes the education laws.

    I am also glad to see Ohio state AG Dann taking a focus on ensuring that the Charter Schools are held accountable to the state’s education laws.

    Thanks for thoughtful post.

  • T. Ruddick

    Wow. You really aren’t current with education trends, are you?

    TQM is a 90s concept, and has been superceded by CQI (continuous quality improvement), which features wrinkles primarily incorporated by Reagan cabinet member Malcolm Baldridge: CQI is frequently called “Baldridge” in recognition.

    You may be fascinated to learn that Dayton Public Schools is using Baldridge. Percy Mack initiated the program.

    You might also be informed that CQI is a rapidly expanding movement in Higher Education. The North Central Association, which accredits colleges and universities in our area, is extremely pro-Baldridge.

    Now, does this stuff work? The most definitive answer I can find is “no”. I refer you to the study “Management Fads in Higher Education” by Robert Birnbaum (available thru Sinclair’s library, among others). Birnbaum, one of the few education researchers who produces meaty results, traced the development of seven “improvement” formulae, including TQM, Zero-Based Budgeting, “Excellence” (a la Tom Peters), Planning Programming Budget Basis, Management by Objectives, Strategic Planning, Benchmarking, and Business Process Reengineering. (He mentions CQI as a latter-generation development of TQM, an upcoming “fad”).

    A complete review of Birnbaum, for those who want the Cliif’s Notes version, is at http://edrev.asu.edu/reviews/rev112.htm

    But for a quick review: management fads take root when there’s a perceived atmosphere of crisis, when the leadership views the organization as a mechanism rather than a culture or process or system. All of the fads start in business or government, then spread quickly from business to government or vice versa, and then are found wanting and largely abandoned–and THEN are adopted by education. All of these fads start by claiming they’re the “magic bullet” that will cure problems, all fail to perform anywhere close to what was advertised, and their death knell is sounded when their original advocates start to blame their failure on poor management, poor implementation, or other external cause.

    Even Malcolm Baldridge noted the limitations of CQI processes. He noted that most enterprises’ outcomes depend on decision-making at critical nodes–for example, hiring decisions for important positions have much more impact on long-term quality than any CQI process.

    As a member of the faculty at a college where CQI was adopted early, I have begun to suspect that it retards decision-making and absorbs an ugly amount of money for professional training and administration in CQI. After years, I cannot clearly identify any institutional process that CQI has improved. Yet the NCA praises us for our implementation of their program.

    The fact that you don’t seem to know these things cast doubt on the reliability of your other conclusions. But that’s another post. Which I think I’ll indulge myself in.

  • T. Ruddick

    About Charter Schools:

    They were an experiment. We agree that the experiment failed. Do we know why?

    Since I hold a PhD and therefore have been thoroughly trained in experimental research, I’d like to offer an expert opinion for debate. I think they failed because they were poorly designed experiments, developed and conducted by amateurs.

    Consider: medical care in the USA is, in its own way, as much of a mess as education–compared with other first-world nations, the USA ranks near the bottom in measures of both education and health care, and we pay more for both than do people in comparable nations.

    So would we feel comfortable allowing just anyone to open a “charter medical clinic” where people who didn’t hold a medical license were permitted to dispense medication and perform surgery?

    That’s analogous to what we’ve done with schools–we’ve allowed just about anyone with poltical connections or money to open a school and staff it with a creative mix of teachers and/or amateurs.

    To design an experiment properly, you must begin with a sound theoretical basis; we no longer would accept as legitimate any research based on spontaneous generation or phlogiston theory. Then, the experiment must be conducted with as many controls as possible on irrelevant variables. Finally, the results of the experiment must be interpreted objectively and with scholarly detachment.

    Nothing about charter schools has met these strict burdens; rather, we’ve allowed parents who know little about education to co-opt their children’s education into the hands of those with no credentials and no track record. We have fallen for an idea that turns children into guinea pigs, that relies on promises that are always unkept, and that disperses resources from an inordinately bureaucratic system into a multiply bifurcated morass.

    Mike, yes, you’re right. The people who have done charter schools are not visonaries–they’re a mix of profiteers and malcontents. There are no experts trying to match climate and instructional technique to the needs of individual students.

    We know that, for most students, direct instruction technique with a system of quick rewards, especially in the early grades, works well. For advanced students, a more free-form curriculum and hands-off instruction works best. Special needs students are the only population that’s currently well-served by applied techniques.

    We don’t need charter schools to implement those methods of education. In fact, the basic premise of charter schools is that competition will create improvement; but they create competition within Ohio when the proper competition is between Ohio and contiguous states–or for that matter Ohio and the world. Competing within the state is a little like the Sheriff in “Blazing Saddles” holding a gun to his own head and shouting “nobody moves or the n*****r gets it!”. It’s like a wrestler pinning his own shoulders to the mat. We are beating ourselves up and thinking that’s one way to win a fight–not entirely brilliant, is it, from that perspective, since at the same time we’re LOSING?

    If some highly-qualified education researcher came to the state board of education with a project to implement–and if the state BOE was not composed of largely clueless politicos who are armed mostly with personal agendas–then maybe a project charter school would be a good idea. Yeah–THAT will happen!

  • Mike Bock

    Hi Gary Staiger and T. Ruddick. Thanks for the comments.

    My thought is that charter schools could be useful in helping Strickland to fulfill his stated goal of reforming and renewing the system of education itself — and that, therefore, Strickland should not discard the charter school movement, but, rather, he should develop exemplary charter schools as a means to create the public demand that advancing his goal of reform requires.

    The reform that Ohio’s education needs is a reform that will result in schools producing new levels of high quality. Bringing schools and students up to some minimum levels of accomplishment is simply not enough. If all Ohio schools had test scores so that, according to Ohio’s evaluation, all schools were rated “excellent,” the truth is, Ohio’s education system would still be very inadequate. A system that is based on inspections and minimum standards is not the system that will take Ohio to the high levels of academic and cultural accomplishment that the state needs in order to secure a prosperous and promising future for its citizens. I am saying that Ohio’s education system is like the pre-1989 East German Tramont car production system — even at its best, even when labeled with the state’s rating of “excellent,” the result of both systems is still very inadequate.

    As Strickland says, it is the system of education itself that needs to be reformed and renewed. A system that is producing Trabants must be transformed so that it produces Mercedes. Simply tinkering with the system is not sufficient. “Using Baldridge” may amount simply to tinkering — and I’m sure that Mack and DPS have created some pretty impressive statistics and graphs and probably the Baldridge work has occupied a lot of time of an expensive administrator — but tinkering is not the same as transformation. And transformation requires an authentic reform of the system itself. Playing around with Baldridge means little if the process does not result in authentic reform. The bosses of the Trabant factory also probably produced tons of data, reports and graphs — but at the end of the day, regardless of their obsessive German management, it was Trabants that rolled off the line, not Mercedes.

    To change the system itself, so that it produces quality results, is not an easy task. The type of change that is crucial to accomplish is the change that transforms what Deming said accounts for 85% of quality issues — organizational structure. In order for schools to embark on investing the huge amount of energy needed for this type of major change, there would need to be a huge outcry of public demand. Only a big public demand would move the educational establishment to invest the huge amounts of energy and concentration that such a transformation would require. But there will not be public demand unless the public sees attractive alternatives that it wants. The public could hardly demand that its system produce a Mercedes, if no-one had ever had any experience with or knowledge of a Mercedes. People will not be dissatisfied with their “excellent” Trabant, if they don’t see an attractive alternative.

    The reform of the system itself has been identified by Strickland as his goal. But authentic movement toward accomplishing this goal will not proceed unless there is public demand. The educational establishment will not upset their own kingdom without a lot of public agitation that they do so. Creating exemplary charter schools, where students have transforming quality educational experiences, is one means of creating public demand for overall school improvement.

    Creating exemplary charter schools could come through a competitive RFP process. The investment of sponsoring contests for developing and designing schools of quality would be an excellent investment for Ohio that Strickland should advocate. In my judgment, charter schools offer a great opportunity. As my article says: Strickland Should Use Charter Schools To Help Fulfill His Promise: “Reform and Renew the System of Education Itself”

  • Mike, you sound more libertarian in your views each time you post…:}

    It sounds like there is general agreement on the need for massive overhaul of a broken system, but the charter school piniata is still up.

    To summarize T Ruddick post about charter schools:

    Why re-invent the wheel?? We have some bent spokes in the one we have, let’s fix them

    A big issue about charters for me is “privatization”, a neo-con AND a Libertarian political position I strongly disagree with, especially when it comes to social services that are of a wide societal benefit…education being one. Charter schools have not proven their worth, and in the case of the Dayton school
    system, greatly hampered the district financially.

    I am not against private educational institutions, but I am against civil government having to pay for it. Further, the oversight has been practically nonexistent and hence we don’t even know what we are paying for. Right here in the Miami Valley, Ohio AG Mark Dann is suing not one, but three local charters over their failure to live up to State educational standards. How many more are there that we don’t know about, that we are paying for?.

    T Ruddick, I sincerely hope that you will be taking your ideas as posted to the new board [if you have not already done so]. . Not trying to speak for her, but I believe you would find Nancy Nerny very open to discussing them with you. In a discussion before the election with her one of the issues she was focused on was parent school communication, which fits neatly into your whole point of helping to raise public demands for a better system. The particulars of your post are a bit out of my personal skill set…except for having 4 offspring and now two grandkids in the “system”. I am no education major, but they sure as hell open up the debate!!

  • Eric

    Ohio law gives local boards of education tremendous authority to organize local schools according to the desires of local citizens — the problem is, without good alternatives, the desires of local citizens are focused on the Trabant.

    Local districts have energy costs, leaky roofs and unfunded mandates to cope with. Ed schools have the flexibility to make changes; changes are much harder to make in districts. So it’s not lack of vision, it’s lack of agility (and/or resources) at the local district level.

    Charter schools, under incompetent Republican administration, have failed to produce market alternatives of quality, and, at best, have barely met minimum standards.

    Please. (Sigh) That’s a mighty broad brush. How have you determined that the charters aren’t merely underfunded? Anyone care to address the Marc Dann’s invisible commitment to equal educational opportunity?

    Quality charter schools would provide the best opportunity to demonstrate how, through reorganization, schools could save money and at the same time how schools could achieve new high standards of quality.

    How is it that Baldrige in Education winners don’t provide the “best opportunity to demonstrate how …”?

    Gov. Strickland should enlist the educational community, …

    Gov Strickland should ask the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for a copy of the state’s K-12 quality policy and then ask the GA why they’ve exempted charters from that policy.

    If Strickland truly could, “be willing and brave enough to take bold steps to reform and renew the system of education itself…”

    Thanks for commenting on Strickland’s statement. When I here quotes like his, coming from a Democrat, I dismiss them since the NEA appears to have abandoned Baldrige/TQM in preference for fighting NCLB.

    I am also glad to see Ohio state AG Dann taking a focus on ensuring that the Charter Schools are held accountable to the state’s education laws.

    But he’s not. He’s leveraging contract language which never met the intent of charter laws.

    TQM is a 90s concept, and has been superceded by CQI … [per] Reagan cabinet member Malcolm Baldridge

    As Jon Stewart says, linear time is so pre-9/11!

    As a member of the faculty at a college where … NCA praises us for our implementation of their program.

    If it’s any comfort, I’m not as impressed as NCA. Perhaps NCA should submit a Baldrige application of their own.

    The fact that you don’t seem to know these things cast doubt on the reliability of your other conclusions.

    Cut Mike some slack. He’s a newby handicapped by having learned to spell Baldrige from you. (Which undermines your ability to make an argument from authority.)

    if the state BOE was not composed of largely clueless politicos who are armed mostly with personal agendas

    Please. You make the state board sound like the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

    Only a big public demand would move the educational establishment to invest the huge amounts of energy and concentration that such a transformation would require.

    But motivating the public by highlighting deficiencies of public schools will lose union cooperation. We’re left waiting for the opportune moment to apply the right amount of leverage. Arlene Setzer is way ahead of you.

    Creating exemplary charter schools could come through a competitive RFP process.

    Wrong. We need to leverage the state’s K-12 education policy to reshape ed schools, professional development, and the relationships between community and school board.

    Right here in the Miami Valley, Ohio AG Mark Dann is suing not one, but three local charters over their failure to live up to State educational standards.

    No, Marc Dann is making it clear to anyone who can read the complaint that appeasing the teachers’ union trumps ensuring equal opportunity for children living in DeSoto Bass.

    T Ruddick, I sincerely hope that you will be taking your ideas as posted to the new board

    I’d rather you not, since you don’t seem to have a handle on the expectations implicit in a board member’s oath of office.

  • T. Ruddick

    Generally I agree with the above. There will be limited improvement without change in the system itself. The system itself is driven by its supersystem–the state and federal authorities, mostly the state ones.

    But it requires clear eyed analysis. A recent issue of Education Week (I think Oct 15) contained an interesting opinion piece about charters that noted that more and more of them are becoming sectarian: Tarik ibn Zayed academy–outside of Minneapolis, devoted to education in a milieu of Islamic values and culture; Ben Gamla Charter School in Hollywood, FL–dedicated to educating in a climate of Jewish culture and values–and the site of public protests, Kahlil Gibran academy, in New York City. I was aware that the Islamic Center of Cincinnati, which maintains that glorious mosque visible from I-75 just south of the Mason exit, was planning its own charter.

    My feeling is that charters are out of control if they permit religious- or culturally-biased schools to operate as publics. I’m not opposed to religious schools–in fact, my position, I think, is one that defends them. Let a religious or culturally centered school operate as a public, and the state may impose its desires upon the school’s policies and curriculum–and then the religious or cultural focus is compromised.

    Keep special interest schools private, that’s what I say. Chaminade-Julienne and Dayton Christian have prospered without state funds; they’re not broke, and well-meaning attempts to “fix” them by siphoning off state funds, I fear, will sow the seeds of their destruction.

  • Greg Hunter

    I say we appoint Dr. Ruddick the Education Czar of Ohio for a non renewable 10 yr. term and an approved 10 year budget and let him rock. At the end of that term the Ohio public can vote up or down whether he lives or dies. Dr. Ruddicks mix of intelligent discussion and pop culture references gets my vote. A sign of great, well rounded intelligence. IMHO.

    PS I lived through all that TQM, The Goal and other such quality crap. I would contend that making teachers the highest paid part of the equation would solve the problem. If one actually looks at public policy compared to results the BEST teachers that ever graced the public school system were forced into the system during the Vietnam war. Unlike Cheney’s deferment, the exemption for college grads entering the teaching profession enhanced the public school system for 30 yrs. These teachers are now retiring and the school system has not paid enough money to keep quality educators in the system.

    How to explain such relentless reductions in class size, especially when they seem to be at the expense of teacher pay? My research suggests that the trends in teacher quantity and pay are driven by the nature of technological progress in the larger economy. To understand how this might work, suppose that the knowledge used by skilled workers outside teaching, such as doctors or engineers, is improving as a result of innovation. This would raise the productivity of skilled nonteachers, thereby raising the price of skilled labor. However, suppose that the general knowledge transmitted by schoolteachers, such as reading or arithmetic, remains largely unchanged and that the productivity of teachers remains constant as a result. Now schools must pay higher prices for skilled teachers, but they do not receive higher productivity in return. Faced with this situation, schools will respond by lowering the quality of teachers relative to workers in other professional occupations and raising the quantity of teachers employed. The relative quality of teachers falls precisely because the economy is healthy enough to drive up the demand for educated workers. In a sense, high teacher quality inevitably becomes a victim of its own educational successes.

    I found this quote from the Hoover document which sums up another aspect of the Teacher/Education dilemma.

  • Eric

    I feel that the Democrats who sought to make school board endorsements did so in good faith that their endorsements would benefit the Dayton community. … DDN implied that the Montgomery County Democrats’ endorsement process was completely irresponsible … I hope that in future elections citizens will use DaytonOS to more and more effectively communicate.

    Apparently the Democrats used neither the eleventh grade social studies competencies nor the Ohio K-12 quality policy in making their endorsement. While the social studies standards are quite accessible (to high school graduates, anyway) the quality policy are formidable (MBA level stuff). I agree with DDN that it’s bad form to make an endorsement without assessing the endorsee’s ability to keep his/her oath of office. It’s also bad form to rail against the rule of law (or defy it) rather than set a positive example for schoolchildren:
    Grade Five
    2. Explain the obligations of upholding the U.S. Constitution including:
    a. Obeying laws;

    Here’s a learning opportunity: Try to find find Ohio’s K-12 quality policy. Here’s some education stakeholders you might ask: DEA, OEA, BASA, OSBA, OASBO, OFT, 50 Ohio ed schools, over 600 Ohio school districts, each with a superintendent, treasurer, and 5 or more board members.

    If you’re serious about using “DaytonOS to more effectively communicate,” a tutorial on the K-12 quality policy and a commitment to constructive citizenship would be a good first step.

  • Mike Bock

    Gary, when you say, “Why reinvent the wheel?? We have some bent spokes in the one we have, let’s fix them,” it seems to me that you are not acknowledging the degree of change that the system needs.

    To illustrate how bad, in my opinion, our education system is, I am making an analogy between our education system that produces our high school graduates and the East German manufacturing system that produced the Trabant car. My point is that just as there was no way that the quality problems of East German manufacturing, as revealed in the Trabant, could have been fixed by tinkering with the system — straightening a bent spoke here, applying a bit of paint there — there is no way to fix our education system simply by tinkering.

    We need a system of education that will provide citizens with the opportunity to experience a whole new realm of quality. My point is that even school districts rated by the state as “excellent,” from a more profound view of what excellence or quality in education should really mean, are, in fact, of poor quality. This is what citizens of “excellent” districts don’t want to believe — and unless there is a change in attitude by the public, authentic reform will be seen as needed only in urban schools or schools with low state ratings. What is missing in our education system are good examples of what excellence in a school really means.

    Strickland in his inaugural speech said that the answer to education improvement is found in reforming “the system of education itself.” But the fact that a popular governor wants to make such difficult reform is not sufficient to bring such reform to reality. The power of the educational establishment to resist authentic change is incredibly strong and the organizational reforms that are needed simply will not happen unless there is a strong demand from the public for such reforms to be enacted. If the predominant view of the public agrees with you, that the system basically is doing quite well, then there is little hope for meaningful reform.

    Greg, my reason for bringing up TQM is simply that it is a body of thought that supports Strickland’s emphasis on changing the system. Yes, there are a lot of people who have suffered from long meetings and then more meetings coming to grips with “such quality crap.” In general, at least in my experience in education, such TQM efforts were a big waste of time because there was no commitment, and no hope of a commitment, that the central issue of overall organizational structure would ever be impacted by any meaningful reform. It all came down to window dressing, and, at best, tinkering. Deming’s view that 85% of quality stems from organizational structure rings true to me — and again, the reason I brought up the East German Trabant is because it is an obvious and acknowledged example of how poor quality comes from faulty organizational structure and of how tinkering with such a system is simply not sufficient.
    I have a personal fondness for Deming because I met him in 1991 at a four day TQM seminar he organized — and I was given the opportunity to conduct a 30 minute interview with him.

    If charter schools were working to produce models of quality, then they would have a positive influence on public education. Local boards, even in districts deemed “excellent,” would begin to respond to public interest and public demand that they provide in their local districts the same type of schools shown in quality charters.

    Charter schools should be designed with organizational structures profoundly different from the failed designs that plague public education. Strickland’s view seems to be that there is plenty of money already in education. The money is not applied efficiently or profitably as a means to advance the overall purpose of the system. There are simply too many individual profit centers in the system that subtracts from the system’s capacity to achieve quality. If a viable theory of quality is that teacher salaries should be doubled or tripled, then where will this money come from? It is unreasonable to expect the public to continually vote higher taxes to support such salary raise. The money for higher salaries is already available within the system — if the system was organized according to quality principals.

    Charter schools give the opportunity to show the power of organizational reform In my view, Strickland should find a way to empower the creation of new charter schools as a means to push public opinion toward general system reform. I realize that there is such hatred of charter schools by important parts of his constituency that his embracing the concept of charter schools may not be easy.

    T. Ruddick, would you accept the notion that the educational establishment should be involved in creating new models of schools — models based on profoundly reformed organizational structures?

    Eric, thanks for the comment — you are quoting me as I explained my reasons for writing a letter to the editor of DDN about its editorial slamming the Democrats and particularly their chair, Mark Owens. I thought the DDN was unfair and rash is its criticism. Honestly, I am not familiar with the fact that Ohio has a K-12 quality policy. I would like to know more about what that quality policy includes and how the policy was formulated. I don’t understand your comment about upholding the Constitution and obeying laws.

  • Eric

    Hi Mike,

    You’re doing a good job raising education quality issues, and I really appreciate what you’re doing. You correctly note, “The power of the educational establishment to resist authentic change is incredibly strong.” Here’s a plan to address that:

    1. Chad Readler ties Marc Dann to railroad tracks with rope supplied by the Ohio Education Association
    2. Marc Dann meets his demise under the wheels of the Quality Clue Train
    3. The educational establishment (OEA, OFT, BASA, OSBA, OASBO, ODE, SBE, SUED, etc.), seeing the mess on the tracks, opt to get on board rather than throw rocks as it passes.

    Boarding the Quality Clue Train requires a commitment to helping school board members keep their oath of office, which includes complying with Ohio’s K-12 Quality Policy. Not to belabor the issue, or rub noses in the doodoo, but we’ve really got a major stuck-on-stupid moment on our hands here: Most of the people charged with implementing Ohio’s K-12 Quality Policy probably can’t find it. This means widespread bad faith conduct that will undermine Marc Dann’s attempts to do the OEA’s bidding. “Ignorance of the law is our excuse” won’t give the courts much confidence in the ability of school districts to “provide a public education meeting State standards.”

    You comment, “Honestly, I am not familiar with the fact that Ohio has a K-12 quality policy. I would like to know more about what that quality policy includes and how the policy was formulated.” Here you go. These 21 factoids also work as hints for a web search. Can you find Ohio’s K-12 Quality Policy? Aren’t you glad you’re not on a school board and oath-sworn to do something you have never been told about? Glad you aren’t the county Democratic Party chair who vouched for a candidate’s ability to fulfill the duties of a school board member without first figuring out what those duties are–as expected of Ohio high school juniors? Glad your reputation as an intelligent, civic-minded individual doesn’t depend on receiving “help” from Columbus?

    Ohio’s K-12 Quality Policy:

    o Incorporates much of the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence from the National Institute of Standards and Technology

    o Was drafted with the help of an Executive Vice President from Vernay Labs, who worked extensively with Dr. W. Edwards Deming and the Ohio Quality and Productivity Forum

    o Was adopted nearly seven years ago

    o Provides specific expectations and guidelines for schools and districts to use in creating the best learning conditions for students and achieving state and local educational goals and objectives

    o Assures that all students are provided a general education of high quality

    o Helps the school board, superintendent, and treasurer create conditions for the school district’s success

    o Is available at the Ohio Department of Education website, hiding in plain site

    o Carries the force of law, as stated by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer

    o Applies to all school districts in Ohio

    o Applies to all chartered non-public schools in Ohio (e.g. parochial schools)

    o Does not apply to community schools (aka charter schools) in Ohio

    o Ought to apply to community schools, as resolved by the League of Women Voters of Ohio

    o Is irrelevant to casting informed votes for school board, as indicated by its omission from the Voter’s Guide published by the League of Women Voters

    o Is irrelevant to school board endorsements made by the Montgomery County Democratic Party

    o Is irrelevant to school board endorsements made by Ohio’s teachers’ unions.

    o Is irrelevant to identifying “enterprises more likely to … provide a public education meeting State standards,” per complaints filed by Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann

    o Is inadequate for determining standards of educational opportunity according to the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding

    o Appears to be irrelevant to presidential education platforms and NCLB reauthorization

    o Ought to be integrated into teacher preparation, as directed by the Ohio General Assembly

    o Appears to be irrelevant to teacher and administrator preparation and professional development, according to Ohio’s Educator Standards Board

    o Would save the State of Ohio one billion dollars per year (by one estimate) if educators complied with its provisions, which are legally binding.

  • Teri

    Mike-
    The public needs to demand reform? Are you serious? I’m sorry. Have you ever tried to discuss change with an educator, as an outsider? This system that is so wrecked that simply entertaining the *thought* of any type of real reform is impossible for educators. They don’t want change, they want quiet compliance by their “clientele”.

    The NEA backed Strickland. Wasn’t that enough to tell you that reform was not going to happen?

  • Mike Bock

    Hi Teri,

    I think we need to take Gov. Strickland at his word — from his inaugural speech: “We must be willing and brave enough to take bold steps to reform and renew the system of education itself.” As a Democrat elected as governor with a lot of support from teachers and the educational establishment, Strickland may have more opportunity to implement authentic reform than a Republican governor might have. I’m thinking that when Strickland uses words like “bold” and “brave,” as an established pro-public education advocate, he may be considering a dramatic move, a breakthrough to reform, — sort of in the spirit of the boldness that Nixon, an established anti-communist Republican, showed in making his breakthrough with China.

    But yes, I’m serious, in order for authentic reform to happen, I feel the public will need to demand reform. The fundamental structure of our school system centers on local control via local boards of education, but local boards simply refuse to exert control over the educational establishment. And why should local boards make the effort if the public is complaisant and, overall, satisfied with local schools? My point is that if Strickland has any hope of making the bold moves of reform that the system needs, and that he says he wants to implement, that he will need an awakened public that will support his efforts. I am suggesting that what could stimulate public demand for reform is new and effective charter school models.

    I think it is inaccurate, though tempting, to make sweeping conclusions about educators, to say, as you do, “They don’t want change.” The truth is, I feel, many educators are very frustrated with the system — as evidenced by many young educators lasting only a few years — and would welcome authentic reform that would help them achieve more effectiveness as teachers. Of course no-one wants to lose their job or their security — and that is why, maybe, a Democratic governor would have a better chance than a Republican governor to gain educator’s support via articulating a well thought out process for long term transformation.

    But regardless, resistance to authentic change would be fierce, because authentic change would threaten those most entrenched and those who have ascended to positions of greatest authority in the system. Authentic reform would be impossible to accomplish without strong public support. And, in order to generate strong public support there must be a vision of quality, and practical examples, that captures the public’s imagination.

  • Teri

    Hey Mike-

    Obviously I’m much more jaded than you. I would *never* take a politician at his or her word.

    You are right, I shouldn’t be making sweeping generaliztions. What I should be saying is that in my limited experience, as a parent/ advocate, as a once happy school volunteer, and as a good friend of a few teachers, I’ve seen nothing that makes me confident that teachers, support personel, and administrators, the state BOE would listen to their clientele and happily agree to change.

    My experience is that educators prefer parents shut up and stay out of the conversation. YMMV.

    Look Mike, here’s a big unspoken problem. I have kids in public schools, I speak out against what I see are huge problems in the system. My children, innocent of any vocalization themselves, now have to sit in classes under the thumb of people that I have publicly criticized. I’m to believe that my kids won’t bear the brunt of this?

    So why would any of us clientele speak out, putting our kids at risk for subtle or not-so subtle repurcussions? Why doesn’t the public speak out? Because if our kids are in school, the stakes are too high. Once our kids are out of school, well, we don’t know what we are talking about since we don’t have kids in school.

    I would love to see a vision of quality and practical examples that capture the public’s imagination. Where is that going to come from? A politician? The NEA? The unwelcome public? The entire state of Ohio is effectively hog-tied by a system designed to protect itself… It’s very very broken…

    But. I’m game for revolution. Show me another state where the people stood up and demanded change. Do we have an example? I’d truly love to see it.

  • Mike Bock

    Hi Teri,

    You write, “I would love to see a vision of quality and practical examples that capture the public’s imagination. Where is that going to come from? A politician?”

    Yes, a politician, I hope. Hey, I’m not ready to give up on Ted Strickland. I have hopes for him; I would like to see him become known as the best Ohio education governor ever. He seems very sincere about wanting to make an impact on Ohio’s educational system and, he gives all the signals that he is open to hearing and considering good ideas. The saying is that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come — and, in my bones, I’m feeling the time has come for an Ohio Democratic governor to seize this concept of school reform and make it the signal initiative that defines his tenure.

    Revolution is not needed — just a large dose of grassroots democracy bringing voters into awareness and participation. Local boards have a lot of authority and electing a majority to a local board that will agree to center on authentic reform, it seems to me, would be very doable. I think there is growing interest in the citizenry to challenge the status quo of school systems. What is needed is a clear articulation of a school reform plan, a vision of change and quality — and lower cost — that would attract the support of voters.

    What would also help to inspire local boards and citizens are exemplary charter schools that would demonstrate the value of reform. And what would also help are monetary incentives from foundations and/or incentives from the state government. Strickland could be very helpful, if he chose to be, in providing leadership for creating such infrastructure of incentives and good examples that would support and encourage local boards to move toward reform. Strickland, I believe, if he chose, could have a lot of success in lining up incentives for change and in creating a process where good ideas about school reform could be vetted and discussed.

  • Teri

    Is there a precedent some where? Another state that has successfully balanced the demands made by the fed gov, the NEA, the state BOE… everyone else and developed a school system that consistently produces excellence?

  • Mike Bock

    You are suggesting a good research project. I am sure some states are more effective than others. However, the standard organizational structure of schools — so far as I can tell — is pretty consistent throughoutt the entire country. And, in my view, it is the organizational structure that is most in need of reform.

    I will try to do some research on your question — hey, thanks for the discussion. I will be out of town for a few days and not within reach of a computer, so if there are any more comments I’ll respond next week.

  • Eric

    Strickland may have more opportunity to implement authentic reform than a Republican governor might have.
    Democratic presidents and governors are exploited as union stooges; Republicans as a common enemy to consolidate resistance. I’d be happy to help, but not at the expense abandoning all progress made to date.

    I’m not ready to give up on Ted Strickland. I have hopes for him; I would like to see him become known as the best Ohio education governor ever.
    The state’s K-12 quality policy would be a good place to start. Perhaps someone in his administration can find a copy…

    Revolution is not needed — just a large dose of grassroots democracy bringing voters into awareness and participation.
    In theory, large numbers might support candidates who plan to keep their oath of office by creating a “through and efficient system” of public schools; In practice, most can’t find the state’s K-12 quality policy.

    electing a majority to a local board that will agree to center on authentic reform
    Define “authentic reform.” How is it different than “thorough and efficent,” or the expectations of the state’s K-12 quality policy?

    What is needed is a clear articulation of a school reform plan, a vision of change and quality — and lower cost — that would attract the support of voters.
    How is it different than the expectations in the state’s K-12 quality policy?

    What would also help to inspire local boards and citizens are exemplary charter schools that would demonstrate the value of reform.
    That will postpone board action by the years required to create exemplary charters. Why not elect board members with the skills to keep their oath of office by fulfilling the state’s K-12 quality policy?

    Strickland, I believe, if he chose, could have a lot of success in lining up incentives for change and in creating a process where good ideas about school reform could be vetted and discussed.
    How would that differ from the process in the early 2000’s that produced the state’s K-12 quality policy?

    Is there a precedent some where? Another state that has successfully balanced the demands made by the fed gov, the NEA, the state BOE …
    As a state, Ohio actually has an edge on most. Our biggest problem is electing officials who can find the state’s K-12 quality policy. Some districts outside Ohio have done what all Ohio districts are asked to do; here’s more information:
    The Baldrige Program: Self-Assessment for Continuous Improvement
    Baldrige in Education: Performance Excellence Delivers World-Class Results

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