It’s time for the education sector to catch up to the private sector in efficiency and effectiveness.
While the private sector has increased efficiency and effectiveness in services such as procurement, transportation, accounting, and information technology, the education sector largely has lagged behind. Investments to develop new systems are often the first to go in budget cuts that focus in the short term on protecting instructional resources.
District operations must be reorganized to move from industrial-age control models that ensure compliance to systems that use data and technology to empower local school leaders and teachers, customize service to schools, and improve efficiency. Central systems should be used to assess and provide what each school needs.
Under the leadership of a new superintendent, the Baltimore City Public School System made large cuts in the central office, moved control of millions of dollars to schools, and changed the focus and structure of district administration from monitoring and compliance to the empowerment of principals. Principals who had been responsible for spending $100 per pupil suddenly had $8,000 per pupil under their control through a dramatic change in the school funding system combined with increased budgetary autonomy.
The district reorganized central staff into cross-functional teams serving networks of about 15 schools each. These teams included an academic lead, special education staff, operations and human resource support, a budget expert, and a social worker. Together, the teams supported the principal in creating his or her school improvement plan and in aligning resources and support to achieve it. These teams shared accountability for improving student performance, and their level of service was monitored through a combination of “customer” surveys administered to school principals and process metrics measuring the speed and quality of service. The district is currently revising its information and accountability systems to align with this new approach.