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It appears that Tom Vander Ark, executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is stepping down. The Gates Foundation has billions of dollars to give away and can make quite an impact. The results of their giving has been mixed so far. Of course the results of pretty much every school reform program have been mixed.
Some programs work out very well. Some are complete failures. Sometimes two schools built on the same model will have very different results. The problem is that schools are more complex than most people realize. I would argue that they are much more complex than your average business. This is especially true when you compare a school with a business of the same relative size.
The input to schools (students) is mixed. The control over the input both in determining who comes in and how they behave once there is very limited. And let us not forget that the students are much impacted by people and events outside of school over which the school often has no control.
Staffing is also different. Schools are staffed by independent people who are used to being in near (as practical) control in their classrooms but have to switch to being very much out of control when interacting with their supervisors. There is some conflict there.
Administrations also have a different role in schools and have less control over their budgets than most CEOs do of budgets in their businesses.
And school boards? Business choose boards based on what they know and how much they can help the CEO manage better. School boards are elected and this can result in boards that care little about education (and know even less about it) and care mostly about cutting costs. Oh there are good, perhaps even great, school boards out their but adminstration has very little contol over who they get.
Plus of course there is government control. Let's not even get into required testing, teacher certification hoops and unfunded mandates!
No, public schools have a deck that is stacked against them. It's a wonder there are as many good ones as their are.
But we live in a country where the Golden Rule is "those with the gold make the rules" and foundations that are willing to spend a lot of money can have an influence even in public schools. A lot of people will try changes if someone else will pay for it. Some ideas are going to work and some will not. Standing still doesn't seem like an option though. For this reason a lot of people are wondering who will take Vander Ark's place. I've thought about applying myself but I think that perhaps it might scare too many people if I actually got it.



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