Monday, June 27, 2005


One of the most practical changes that would improve K-12 education overnight would be to open up competition for school management jobs to applicants from outside the K-12 arena.

With today’s complicated school systems and multimillion dollar budgets, it’s ridiculous to expect someone trained as a gym teacher or to do other relatively simple educational functions, whose orientation is toward helping little kids, do an outstanding job of administration.

Parents, who come from all walks of life, have already noticed that school administrators often make decisions that are contrary to what would be done in THEIR lines of work. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, business owners and others who basically think for a living have a hard time understanding why school leaders keep hanging on to whole language and whole math curriculum despite obvious declines in literacy and numeracy, for example, or why they are adding more and more offbeat, special-interest programming and social engineering when mediocre test scores indicate the students aren’t mastering the academic basics.

Could the problem be that school managers just don’t KNOW any better? That it’s an intellectual deficit? This comparison of test scores – not from kids, but from would-be school managers – seems to suggest that a little more intellectual firepower in the executive suite could be a big help to schools:


Are Educators Just (Gulp) Dumb?

Q. There’s broad consensus that even though we’re spending far more money than in the past, K-12 educational quality is going downhill. The finger of blame shouldn’t be pointed at the teachers, but at school management. Maybe educators aren’t smart enough to run our schools well. Is that horribly mean, or is that true?

It could very well be that K-12 education is hamstrung by being a “closed shop” that mostly requires its managers to have come up through the ranks of teaching.

There really is a lot more to managing a multimillion dollar educational operation than knowing how to keep a bunch of 10-year-olds on task, after all. And the facts show that, academically speaking, educators are closer to the bottom of the barrel than to the top.

Decide for yourself based on this report from the June 20, 2005, News and Observer in Raleigh, N.C.:

According to an analysis of Graduate Record Examination scores of applicants to graduate school in various fields, students who wish to study educational administration ranked dead last.

The GRE is a general screening test for graduate programs, similar to the ACT and SAT as predictors of academic competence.

Here are the mean verbal, quantitative and composite scores for broad categories of applicants applying to graduate school from GRE records:

Engineering -- 468, 721, 1189
Physical Sciences -- 488, 699, 1187
Humanities/Arts-- 541, 561, 1102
Life Sciences -- 464, 580, 1044
Social Sciences -- 485, 559, 1044
Education -- 450, 531, 981

Looking deeper within the education category, applicants for graduate study in educational administration had the lowest individual and composite scores: mean verbal -- 429; mean quantitative -- 520; total composite -- 949.

Those are the lowest individual and composite scores of all 34 subcategories tabulated by the Educational Testing Service.

Solution: among other changes, there’s growing support for alternative certification of educational administrators so that they can come from other fields, especially management and finance, instead of from within the K-12 system.

Homework: Among the many organizations working on upgrading the quality of educational management is the American Association of School Administrators,

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