Privatizing public schools involves changing school words to reflect a business-like environment. There’s nothing wrong with these words in general, but when applied to schools, they change the nature of schooling and the way we look at teachers and students.
Business-like terms used with schools increased during the 1980s and 1990s. They are so frequent now they’re taken for granted.
Phi Delta Kappan’s October issue is called School for Sale. They discuss the role of business in schools. Did you put the For Sale sign in the front yard of your democratic public school? Probably not, and neither did I.
Privatizing public schools has not worked well, but business words and their meanings have reshaped how we look at public education.
Accountability is considered critical for the high performance of an organization. It leads to student expectations and a definition of success.
Accountability applied to schools means that teachers and school officials are responsible for the child’s learning. Standards in the form of test objectives become the measure for success and accountability.
The problem lies in the fact that children might not reach the same standards, the standards themselves might be questionable, and children are often successful in that which is not measured.
Also, many variables affect how a student learns.
Some coordinating of what’s taught and tested is necessary, but matching everything to standards leaves little opportunity for creativity and acknowledging children’s differences. Standards aren’t always good standards.
Aligning material is used with direct instruction, where teachers use manuals and online learning. Anyone can follow the manual’s directions or the computer, and a qualified highly trained teacher isn’t needed.
These are standards to compare or assess product results based on data. Careers that use benchmarks include technology, financial, marketing, processes, cities, government, and now schools. Schools are compared to each and made to compete.
4. Best Practice
Strategies and resources that work well might be reasonable solutions, but using best practice implies a one-size-fits-all program that works best, which is often not the case. Children learn differently and not always in lockstep.
Most well-prepared teachers understand which practices work, and they may have come up with their own.
There’s always something new to learn and great ideas to share, but often when someone is touting best practice, there’s a program they’re selling.
School brands are about competition and marketing schools through advertisements to get customers. Advertising brands have become popular during the pandemic.
Parents used to learn about their public school through other parents, like the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). A good PTA brings together those vested in the school to keep it working well.
6. CEO (Chief Executive Officer)
The label CEO of schools replaces the label superintendent, the top manager of the school district’s daily operations. CEO is a business word referring to the leader of a corporation.
Schools aren’t corporations selling a product; they bring together individuals who are supposed to care about children.
With privatization, parents are customers who choose the school they want because the school is a business.
When communities are devoted to their public schools, they follow and attend Friday night football games. They attend class plays and cheer for student accomplishments. They visit student art fairs and help with school fundraisers. Public schools can be a source of pride for the community.
Parents and those in the community never used to be called customers because they had ownership of the schools. The schools belonged to them.
Teachers always study student information. Technology permits the collection of more data, raising student privacy concerns. Read Steven Singer’s The Six Biggest Problems with Data-Driven Instruction. Data can be unscientific, unproven, and dehumanizing. Those are just some of the problems.
The late Clayton Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation went from the boardroom to the K-12 classroom. He predicted a radical shift from brick-and-mortar schools to online learning.
The K-12 ed-tech market has ballooned in the past decade to an estimated $7 billion.
But there’s little proof that only online learning improves how students learn, and the pandemic has shown that parents want their schools.
Privatizing schools permits start-ups or promotes change in public education by entrepreneurship. Because an entrepreneur is a business-like word, it has been called edupreneur. This role sometimes creates confusion.
Entrepreneurs tied to education may have never worked with children in a public school. They may never have studied child development and how children learn.
Teachers remain essential for working with students. Their ideas, knowledge, and ability to relay instruction to their students are at the heart of education.
Next generation learning claims to break away from traditional education, but it’s mostly about technology. It uses a host of other business terms like collaboration, agile, and personalized. Its focus is largely on college and career readiness.
Those who offer to help fund a school or school district become partners (or stakeholders) and are given a say in running the school. Partnerships are useful if those partnering help fund a problem or need facing the school or support a teacher or school plan.
A school partner threatens the school when they seek to control or change the school to follow their unproven, untested vision. They might support a business-like agenda. They might be more concerned about making a profit.
Instead of the community controlling their public schools, businesses run charter or private schools. Parents choose from a portfolio of schools like they’re choosing stock options on Wall Street.
Parents become customers.
Breaking schools up this way changes school ownership and involves profit-making for those who own the schools.
Stakeholders in business mean employees, customers, suppliers, investors, the community, the general public, etc. It’s is considered a good thing in business.
School stakeholders include outside interests who might seize control of the school. They can use the school to promote their ideas.
The real stakeholders of public schools are parents, children, teachers, and the community.
In the past, we understood this to be true. Parents and the community gain ownership access to their schools through the local school board.
These are just some of the business words. Most are connected, and their purpose is to transform schools. Maybe you can think of others. Let me know, and I will add them to the list.
Here’s a list of business words that include some of the above terms. The article is titled The Ultimate List of 119 Most-Hated Business Buzzwords. Business people don’t like these terms, so why are we using them in schools?