Proactive Is The New Reactive
— Alex Stuckey (@alexdstuckey) April 9, 2014
There is a lot of talk these days in Jefferson City about being proactive in public schools. Currently, when a school drops below a set performance mark, the district becomes unaccredited. Students are then able to transfer out of the district to a nearby accredited one. Many view this as a reactive, nuclear option. What we need, they say, is early intervention. We need to be proactive when a school starts to struggle. I hate to get tied up in semantics, but by definition, targeting schools that are struggling is reactive, not proactive. It is a reaction to their declining performance.
Lawmakers have their hearts in the right place, but they place too much confidence in their ability to dictate solutions from Jefferson City. After I testified before the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee about the student transfer issue, one representative asked me what lawmakers should do to help those struggling school districts.
“What advice would you give us?” she asked.
“I would tell you that you cannot mandate excellence and you cannot dictate innovation,” I said.
“You would have us do nothing?” she asked.
“No, I would have you get out of the way,” I said. “Remove unnecessary restrictions and burdensome regulations. Free the local schools to innovate.”
Reform teacher tenure policies; remove Last In, First Out provisions; and reform teacher pensions so schools have more flexibility in staffing decisions.
Change seat time and class restrictions that inhibit some blended learning and online learning models.
Try something like Kentucky’s “Districts of Innovation,” where school districts can become “exempt from certain administrative regulations and statutory provisions.”
Responding to government failure with more government action is not being proactive. Policies like the ones cited above are proactive. They put the power into the hands of the school leaders on the ground. A proactive system is one that gives school leaders the freedom to be innovative and gives parents the ability to choose.