Lots of Data, Set Free
The most important aspect of the plan is data. Useful data must be made freely available to all parents and students so that parents can make sense of the various educational offerings. Parents must be able to answer the following questions:
- What is the predicted performance of my child in this education program based on the past performance of children, like my child, in this program?
- How much better (or worse) is the predicted performance of my child in education program A compared to educational programs B, C, ... , n.
The disaggregation of data made available has to go far beyond that provided under NCLB. For example, a male student with two Hispanic parents - one with a high school degree and the other with a college STEM degree, a family income of $ x, from neighborhood z, with various scores on prior tests taken should be able to drill down through the data and find out similar students like him and see how they fared in a particular course.
Such a system is predicated on accurate demographic data being collected, initial placement exams being taken when the student enters formal education, and all subsequent testing results.
Furthermore, the data should be made publicly available (while respecting FERPA regs) so that organizations, like S& P, can provide services for the public to use to evaluate the various educational offerings.
Maintain the Default System, Allowing Educators to Experiment with Their Top-Down Schemes
Under my plan, in which teachers take responsibility for student learning within the agreed upon obligations agreed upon by the students, there will remain some students that no teachers believe thay are capable of educating. These students must still be provided with a free appropriate education, so an educational system of last resort must be maintained. In all liklihood, states will maintain a scaled-down version of their present public education system for these children (and those parenst who favor the present system and wish to keep their children in it). These children will remain a political problem and states and the federal government will continue to employ top-down edicts and experiments in an attempt to solve the problem. They'll also continue to pump money into the system. None of it will work because the nature of the present precludes such a system working. Nonetheless, eventually some educators will be enticed by the per pupil funding available (the reward) and agree to the risks inherent in educating this kids.
I've left this one for last because I have no ecific ideas how to employ an equitable funding system. Basically, some kids are much easier to educate than others and, as such, require more effort to educate. This effort is likely to cost more and you'd think there should be additional compensation for those endeavoring to educate these kids.
There's also an argument that the present funding levels are more than adequate to educate most kids.
I don't have an answer for this problem. Nor does anyone else.
I do know how you might go about solving the problem. First you gather all the educators who think they know how to educate these kids. Then have all of these educators bid to take as many schools worth of children that they think they can handle. The losing educators can then be offered to participate in a small scale experiment and take a random sample of children at the winning bid price and see what they can do. The winning bidder will be paid only for the children they are capable of successfully educating. If the winning bidder (and any of the successful losing bidders) is sufficinetly successful, they should be provided any needed funding to scale up.
That's it. The minimal framework needed for a bottom-up evolution of the present system within a top-down regulatory framework which provides for a fair environment for professional educators to work and permits for top-down efforts for the difficult to educate children.
I'll discuss how a system might work in practice in my next post.