Risk Calculus and Turnaround

My last post at “Rick Hess Straight Up” was about the federal and state roles in school turnaround. You can read it here. It was a lot of fun to steal someone else’s blog space, and I hope that some new readers have found this blog as a result. Thanks again to Rick for making that happen!

I want to reiterate something I said in that post:

Right now, the downside risk of trying something new in failing schools, and subsequently falling short, is greater than continuing to fail in the same old ways.

This is just another manifestation of low expectations. Warren Buffett apparently once suggested that if we wanted to fix failing schools we should just outlaw private schools and then randomly assign every child in America to a public school. This is a clever thought experiment, but it’s also illustrative of our tolerance for inadequacy in education outcomes when it comes to disadvantaged children.

The point is, the downside risk of continuing to fail would be ENORMOUS if the communities served by failing schools were more politically empowered. One great way to maintain a sense of urgency around fixing chronically underperforming schools is for states and the feds to continue to leverage the bully pulpit.

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