Rick Hess opens his book, The Same Thing Over and Over, by asking readers to imagine the following scenario:
How would you respond if asked for a plan to transform America’s schools into a world-class, twenty-first century system?
Then imagine that there is one condition: you must retain the job descriptions, governance arrangements, management practices, compensation strategies, licensure requirements, and calendar of the existing system.
Hopefully, you would flee just as fast as you possibly could.
Red tape stifles innovation, dynamism, and entrepreneurship in public schooling, while creating a culture of risk aversion and defensiveness. These latter two are hardly the features of nimble organizations that can adapt to a changing world; rather, they are the marks of decaying institutions.
Here in Ohio, state leaders are taking note. On several occasions, both Governor John Kasich and Senate President Keith Faber have expressed their desire to “deregulate” public education. That is great news. Yet the task of deregulation is not a simple one. It requires carefully distinguishing the areas where the state has a valid regulatory role from those where it should defer to local, on-the-ground decision making.
The regulatory framework that we at Fordham have advocated is “tight-loose.” In a state policy context, this implies that the state, vis-à-vis districts, should be tight on districts’ results but loose on how they achieve them. In other words, Ohio policymakers should set rigorous academic goals for schools, assess whether they are meeting them, hold them accountable for results—and...