Public educators must live with public policies

Education leaders need to get over their aversion to education policy, writes Rick Hess, who’s been teaching at Penn and Rice.

I had smart, talented leaders complain about ill-conceived accountability systems. About pols who weren’t willing to spend enough on schools. About why pols don’t listen to them or ask their advice. About how the pols ought to stick to their own business, and let educators run the schools. In general, the view was that policy is something done to them by meddling pols who don’t know their place.

Get over yourselves, advises Hess.

. . . Public schools spend public dollars and hire public employees to serve the public’s children. For better or worse, they’re going to be governed by public policies.

This isn’t new, he writes. Public policy always has determined spending, class size, subject matter and teacher qualifications. People notice it more now because there’s “substantial dissatisfaction with how schools are doing and with the effects of these older rules and regs.”

If you were an elected official and were responsible for elementary schools where only half of kids are reading at grade level and high schools where only fifty percent of students are graduating, it’d be pretty understandable (and laudable, even) to think you can’t simply trust the educators to do the right thing.

If you think educators should run public schools as they see fit, you have to believe that generals should set national security policy, police should write criminal law, doctors and pharmaceutical companies make health policy and bankers to regulate banking, Hess concludes.

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  1. Miller Smith says:

    Hess is correct. Teachers should follow the policies and administrative orders to the letter and with perfect zeal. Only then will the policy writers and admin have the information to make better policy and regulations.

    When teachers go around the “rules” to have the outcome the “rules” intend, admin has no reason to change course. Always follow the rules to the letter even if a bad or stupid outcome is obvious. Only then can the admin. be held responsible for their jobs.

    General Rule: Never correct an administrator’s mistake. Heck after a few doozy screw-ups, admin actually starts asking the subordinate’s opinion and assistance.

  2. Hess is an idiot. He fails to realize that teachers’ work environment is the same thing as the students’ learning environment.

    What he wants to teachers to do is lay day quietly and let the bullshit train run them over.

    No thanks.

    • And the usual resort to vulgarity in the absence of a substantive argument.

      Hey Mike, what part of “public” don’t you understand?

      What Hess wants is to underscore the fact that public education is result of the democratic process and that teachers aren’t the electorate. If you don’t like politicians telling you what to do start a private school and teach any way that suits you and – I love this part – satisfies the demands of parents.