Successful corporations are characterized by strong cultures – customers and employees that are proud of the “brand:” customers who return again and again to the product and employees who are loyal to the corporation. A NY Times columnist writes about Starbucks, a corporation that grew from a handful of stores to over twenty-five thousand stores. The founder, in an interoffice memo bemoans the loss of some of the culture, the aroma of ground coffee and chitchat with the “barrista” as the stores become increasingly automated. However the profits continue to soar (read systemwide standardized test scores) and same store sales (read individual school scores) also continue to increase. Mega institutions are concerned with maintaining positive corporate cultures.
The Department of Education has attempted to follow the corporate model. They have automated many functions: budgets are transparent and online, job applications, transfers and communications are all online. The Empowerment initiative, breaking down the bureaucracy into networks of collaborative schools responsible for their own results is an excellent model. The problem: you cannot impose a culture.
Creating a culture of collaboration in a topdown authoritarian Maoist plutocracy is an oxymoron.
An example: Klein has attempted to separate teachers from their union … instead the Department has created a culture of opposition. They have driven teachers together into an intense dislike for Klein and his policies. In fact, in the upcoming union election Randy Weingarten will probably receive an enormous vote of confidence … a plebiscite on Klein policies.
Eric Nadelstern, who created the Autonomy Zone is a truly innovative and caring educator. His school, the original International High School “created” a school-based transfer plan that became the model for the city. Teachers, under Eric’s tutelage, not only selected their colleagues but also evaluated their colleagues in a peer-based evaluation plan. Eric’s leadership of Empowerment is a trompe d’oeil … a facade.
Klein and company is obsessed with the belief that principals and teachers can be “beaten” into being more effective principals and teachers, or, through fear do “whatever is necessary” to show “results.”
New York State measures graduation rates and give NYC a 43% four year rate, Klein excludes data he doesn’t like (special ed kids) and includes data (GED) that the State excludes, compares “apples to oranges” and pats himself on the back. As Diane Ravitch has clearly shown Klein is shameless in claiming credit that he doesn’t deserve.
The customers (parents and kids) and the employees (principals and teachers) rather than joining together in a culture of camaraderie are driven together into a combative stance: opposing Klein.
Scenario A: Meeting with the teacher union, parent, advocacy groups, elected officials and major corporations and gaining a consensus over the structure and direction of the million student Department of Education.
Scenario B: Ignore parents and disabuse the teacher union, advocacy groups and elected officials, “spin” numbers and “rule” by press release. Seek “solutions” (Weighted Student Funding, Milton Friedman market place competition, open market transfers and “carrot and stick” accountability) that play to the conservative anti union, anti public school crowd.
If the rules that govern full disclosure for corporations were applied to Klein he would be making small rocks out of large one’s in a striped suit in federal penitentiary.