Weighing Small Scale V. Large

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Andrew Rotherham (see post below) was actually responding to a piece by Rishawn Biddle at Dropout Nation on our national fetish with scale. Biddle just responded to Rotherham, gently reproving him for falling into the trap of assuming that small-scale is somehow inferior to large-scale, whether one is discussing clothing, supermarkets, software or education providers. (Diane Ravitch alert!) Specifically in education, Biddle writes, large-scale organization works effectively in “back-office activities” like information technology, school data systems, transportation, school construction, and property management.

But other areas like teacher evaluations and value-added analysis of student test scores could profit from either small consortiums or out-sourcing the functions entirely.

Not to be Jersey-centric or anything, but this discussion of the value of “scaling up” – that hoary stalwart of anti-reformers resistant to charter schools or virtual learning – appears in today’s NJ Spotlight piece. John Mooney discusses the progress of Gov. Christie’s much-maligned task force charged with recommending ways to use student growth to evaluate teachers. Scaling up, in other words, what some (okay, a few) districts do on a small scale. The main bugaboo in the ointment of a statewide teacher evaluation system is NJ SMART, the DOE’s data analysis system years in the works, way over budget, and at least, according to Bari Erlichson, director of the department’s Office of Research and Evaluation, 16 months away from having the capacity to tie student growth to teacher performance.

Maybe NJ should overcome its fetish with scaling up and give districts the flexibility to go small-scale (with appropriate oversight, of course!). Listen up, Task Force.

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