This is the title of a recent con­fer­ence spon­sored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Center for American Progress. The dis­cus­sion was based on a new book Education Governance for the 21st Century: Overcoming the Structural Barriers to School Reform edit­ed by Paul Manna and Patrick McGuinn.

Five themes under­lie the con­clu­sions of the book:

  • Local con­trol is obso­lete. Whether “local” refers to geo­graph­i­cal bound­aries, elect­ed school boards, or oth­er local enti­ties, it is not work­ing in the United States. In most coun­tries that sur­pass us, pub­lic edu­ca­tion is admin­is­tered by states, provinces or even the nation­al gov­ern­ment.
  • Separate gov­er­nance does not work. Public edu­ca­tion should not be admin­is­tered sep­a­rate­ly from oth­er human ser­vice orga­ni­za­tions that impact the same pop­u­la­tions.
  • Monopoly does not work. No one sys­tem should dom­i­nate pub­lic edu­ca­tion. Charters and oth­er mod­els should be part of the solu­tion.
  • Too many cooks. There are too many lay­ers of gov­er­nance influ­enc­ing pub­lic school sys­tems.
  • Present gov­er­nance arrange­ments are cap­tured by adult inter­ests. Adult inter­est groups ben­e­fit from the sta­tus quo and there­fore resist change.

One of the pre­sen­ters was Kenneth Wong, author of a new book Mayoral Governance and School Achievement: How Mayor-led Districts are Improving School and Student Performance. This work is a con­tin­u­a­tion of the research in Wong’s ear­li­er book When Mayors Take Charge that pro­vid­ed part of the basis for Do The Right Thing for Kids’ asser­tion that out­side inter­ven­tion will be nec­es­sary to turn the Kansas City Public Schools around in a mean­ing­ful way. Wong’s research indi­cates that may­or run school dis­tricts con­tin­ue to per­form bet­ter than dis­tricts with tra­di­tion­al gov­er­nance.

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