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January 5, 2007

More Notes on Milwaukee's Plans to Re-Centralize School Governance

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial:

Looking for the path to effective education, leaders of the Milwaukee Public Schools have long slogged through the wilderness of school reform only to end up where they started. All used to be centralized at MPS. Then decentralization became the watchword. Now centralization is again in.

This lunging between two opposite approaches is in a way understandable. Getting big-city school systems to work is no easy task, to judge from the rarity of the accomplishment. Superintendent William Andrekopoulos is right in being dissatisfied with the slow pace of improvement and in searching for ways to step it up. And recentralization does carry the force of logic for decentralized schools that have failed to improve.

Still, as onetime MPS chief Howard Fuller reminded us when we reached him in New Orleans, where he is consulting, neither centralization nor decentralization is a magic bullet. The key ingredient for great schools are "people committed to do whatever it takes to educate our children."

n doing so, MPS must minimize the red tape, which has clogged school operations. Another trick the system must manage is to refrain from hurting the schools that have thrived under decentralization, an example of which is Hamlin Garland Elementary School on Milwaukee's south side. Borsuk highlighted the school in another article this week.

Madison appears to be rather centralized, with a push for standardized curriculum, generally lead by downtown Teaching and Learning staff. I often wonder how practical this actually is, given 24,000+ students and thousands of teachers and staff. Perhaps, in 2007 and going forward, the best solution is to support easy to access internet based knowledge tools for teachers where they can quickly review a variety of curriculum (including those not blessed by the central administration) with notes and links from others. This could likely be done inexpensively, given the wide variety of knowledge management tools available today.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at January 5, 2007 6:33 AM
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