“I do believe that you missed a few key points,” said dtp_arundel, “which are: Governments are only open to a degree—it is very difficult, if not impossible to gain access to staff meetings or notes from those meetings where major decisions are made.  Also, there is a bit of a difference between the ‘consumers’ of governmental services and those of businesses. … Governmental organizations can be inclusive (in many cases) to support non-employee consumers, which is typically not possible by businesses. This is a potentially major resource that is not possible to all businesses. Lastly, in your example about fire fighters, this parallels ‘support groups’ in businesses. That is, if you want to have a certain level of support, you are going to have many people sitting around doing nothing if all they do is provide support over the phone. Now, if you are an effective business, you figure out a way that the employees can ‘back fill’ the time with performing other work that benefits the organization.”

“First, there are not-for-profit businesses,” John says. “They have to do sane budgeting and meet the needs of their customers. Government-funded public schools generally could stand significant improvement in these areas. There are many aspects of businesses from which traditional public schools could learn. Competition is one of them. School choice is one area where, if schools were more like businesses, customers would benefit! Second, if schools run as businesses are not such a good idea, why are private schools often so sought-after by the customers—parents and students?”

Other readers pointed out that schools already are learning from the business sector in how they operate.

“It seems there is a consensus that education can be run in many ways like business,” expressed pmaddock.  “I’ve been an employee in high-tech business, school districts, and nonprofits and have seen some great practices applied no matter what type of organization it is. Some of the best districts in the country apply these approaches to map out processes, identify root causes of waste and ineffectiveness, and innovate using technology to create highly efficient and effective administrative and educational operations. All of this works when you put the customer—students, their parents, and the community—first, when you create cross-functional teams to eliminate barriers, and measure using data, not opinion. These practices have all come from business, and they work!”

Businesses and schools are fundamentally different entities

Although education might benefit from applying some of the principles found in the business world, most readers noted that, in the end, the two realms are fundamentally different—and trying to compare them simply isn’t fair.

“I so wish that people would realize that the business of teaching cannot be compared exactly to that of running a corporate organization that mass-produces products,” said knmuray. “[Yet] we do need to look at accounting, and the lack of procedural checks and balances, we do need to look at protocols (consistency of rules/regs.), we do need to consider levels of management, and clean up top-heavy admin, so that monies (and manpower!) are focused toward our classrooms and students, where the resources would be most effective. I am still waiting for state and federal government to see that their data analysis is flawed—comparing ‘oranges and apples’—and that they need to track the same group of students longitudinally, if they are going to really see accurate, equitable movement of scores/progress. … No business would measure [its] gains using mismatched data.”

For more school reform news:

ED to unions, districts: Can’t we all just get along?

Expert: Federal school reform plan is wrong

School Reform Center at eSN Online

“The business of schools is education, not to make money,” explained k12tco. “That is to say, when making spending decisions ROI is not always applicable (except for projects specifically proposed to save staff time/productivity or money). This makes it harder for schools to evaluate proposed projects, as they must attempt to evaluate factors such as student achievement, community relationships, safety, behavior, equity, 21st-century skills, and satisfaction. To properly evaluate these issues, it is imperative to understand proposed benefits in measurable terms and relate the benefits to the mission of the school or district. CoSN provides a methodology, tools, and case studies to help school leaders determine the Value of Investment for proposed expenditures: http://www.cosn.org/voi.”

“We don’t produce widgets,” said Joe Johnson; “we educate a new generation to assume the roles, culture, and leadership of a new world.”

Several readers echoed Rosenblatt’s point that schools can’t choose their “products,” nor the raw materials used to create them.