I had a discussion lately with a person that proclaimed that the thing wrong with our educational system today is that it needs to be run more like a business. That seems to be a popular thought today. I hear so many people proclaim, the problem with government is it needs o be run like a business. I'm not getting into politics. I just want to share my thoughts on the educational system as to how I think it should or shouldn't be run like a business.
Maybe I have a unique perspective, maybe not. My kids are all out of school. I was once a board member in our local school district. (thankless job) I have been involved in our local schools for over 2 decades.
But I have been involved in running businesses for over 2 decades also. Big companies with 100's of employees and small companies with 10's of associates.
There are aspects of a school district that does indeed model a small, medium or large business. When I was on the school board our small school district had nearly 200 employees. Business models in accounting, management, and maintenance are very appropriate in the public education sector. However, how would that work in the classroom?
I think of a business model and how it works in the industries in which I worked, manufacturing. In each case there were inputs, transformations and outputs. How does that compare to our educational system? In education there are young students enter the system at the age or 5. Transformations take place over the course of 12 years and the outputs are educated, competent young adults. Seems simple doesn't it.
First of all in a business we strive to have complete control over the inputs. We spend hours on specifications. Out of specification, then an input is rejected. Transformations take place in a tightly controlled environment, no outside influences, quality standards such as ISO or QS dictate methods and minimize non standardization. Any input out of specification is rejected and placed into quarantine for later modification or scrap. Outputs are highly scrutinized. They must meet quality control requirements as established before an input is accepted. The customer then finally determines the ultimate functionality of the finished product. That really is how the business model works. Not including the P&L.
How does it work in our schools. Inputs must be accepted regardless of the person. Students arrive as inputs each day, some are hungry, some are angry or sad, some have no support outside of the school walls for their mission each day, some not understanding the language in which the teacher speaks. Transformations take place each day, most of the time at an individual pace, some easily, some struggle in the same classroom. In my business the transformations take place at a predetermined rate. People transform at their own pace dictated by thousands of variables.
In business my customers are well defined, in our schools the customers are those students. Students/customers have expectations and outside influences sometimes not articulated. A teacher looks out and assesses each day what are my customers expectations and what influences are their that are beyond my control.
All of sudden a revelation, my inputs are my customers! My stockholders are the parents and citizens of the district. My stockholder that owns the "company" are not uniform in their expectations, some have no other interest other than to tell me how poorly I perform with a desire to strangle me by taking away what meager tools I am given to transform my inputs. The expectations of my "company's" stockholders is that I improve my outputs with less and less tools.
Outputs of a business determine the success of a business. Without meeting a customers needs no business will succeed. It's the same for an educational system.
When looked at in a holistic nature, for myself I'll stick with manufacturing. My business model will not work in a classroom. My business model is simple in relationship to managing a learning process.
Should we run our schools like a business? Are we allowed to reject our inputs that don't meet the specs? Can we fire those parents that do not support the learning process of our customers? Can we eliminate the destructive outside influence on our inputs like drugs, alcohol, depression, dysfunctional homes, physical and sexual abuse along with every other negative aspect of a child's life that happens outside of our classroom?
A teacher does the best they can with the tools and inputs they are provided. There are teachers out there that live education 24 hours a day, 365 days a year regardless of the classroom bell.
As a stockholder in our school district I don't want my classrooms run like a business. I want my teachers to continue living their dream. They are doing more than I do with less than I have in my company to make sure of success.
Business models work for business, education models work for school. Myself, I cannot see where they are interchangeable.
Thank you teachers.