Are schools businesses?

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When we hear the two words ‘project management’ the business world comes to mind, not a school. However, this particular study proves that business practices have a place in a school setting. For years, schools have struggled to meet new education initiatives like “No Child Left Behind”, especially in urban areas where there are large socio-economic disparities. After reading through the study, I was quite impressed with how apparent business practices like quality management have become in educational settings. I see the connections, now, more than ever especially with the new educational standards (Common Core State Standards) and the new teacher evaluation systems (like SEED). The study identifies three levels in which quality management is applied.

“The first level is to the management processes of a school. Sample school processes include strategic planning, recruiting and staff development, deploying resources, and alignment of what is taught, how it is taught and how it is assessed. The next level is teacher quality to students. Students are recognized as both customers and workers in the educational system. Administrators need to involve students in their own education by training them to evaluate the learning process and accept responsibility for their learning. What the learning will look like is no longer predecided. Educators know what they want to evaluate, but there are many choices as to how the students arrive at the goals set my them and by their teachers (Herman and Herman, 1994). The highest level of quality principles is in learning. This is where it impacts the classroom. To achieve the desired results, educators must question their core teaching and learning processes and methods. Quality standards are established for each work process that results in improving grades and test scores. When the focus becomes instructional processes and student learning, the impact of quality management is the greatest” (Goldberg and Cole, pp. 10).

So, let’s look at the first level they discuss in the quoted segment above. From an administrative and human resources standpoint, there is an abundance of project management practices in place. For example when a district engages in the hiring process, there are certain steps and activities that need to be completed before, during and after the hiring process. When a candidate is being considered there is typically some type of criteria they are being measure against. If they are hired, they must complete the same paperwork, and go through the same training so they are all on the same page at the beginning of the school year. The study also points out that there is a large lens at a district level that focus specifically what is taught, best practices for teaching, and how it will be assessed. The new SEED program (CT’s new teacher evaluation system) takes a close look at the last two parts, where as the new CCSS looks at the content of the curricula.

The next level points out one of the most important aspects of the learning process and a successful educational environment; that in order for our students to be the most successful they must be INVOLVED in their education. As teachers, we must provide them with the tools to reflect, assess and improve their learning process and accept responsibility for their learning. All of the new technology that we have access to in schools is helping us to achieve this. Students have access to more information now than they have ever had before. In order to oversee and facilitate this type of learning environment, there needs to be some form of project management to govern the actions that are taking place. Project management practices help us to establish a system of checks and balances.

The last level the study addresses is how, as a professional, we must stay current and evaluate our own practices. In order to maintain a high level of quality in the classroom, we must self reflect. If we are performing at our highest level, our students are bound to as well.

Do think ‘project management’ has a place in education? Do you see any parallels? What is your take on the article?

Here is the full article: http://nassar2000.tripod.com/services2007/3.pdf

References:

Goldberg, J., & Cole, B. (2002, April 9). Quality Management in Education: Building Excellence and Equity in Student Performance. Retrieved October 7, 2014, from http://nassar2000.tripod.com/services2007/3.pdf

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