Updating Decision Architecture for Student Success

October 12, 2011 at 8:38 AM 1 comment

The decision architecture for education was designed to support macro level management of Federal exigencies. Micro level decision support has been cobbled out haphazardly across the nation by educators without the strategic vision of economists, production planners, or profiteers. These are dirty words in education, but there are lessons from microeconomics that could guide the way we create decision architecture for local management of student outcomes.

The debate over the role of Federal and State governments led me to an analysis that, for the first time, gave me insight into why we keep our books the way we do in education. It also explained why we don’t seem to fund student learning. Now, there will always be questions about how firm a hand government should have in local operations. However, the real solution lies in teaching the States how to micromanage the learning process, and I mean that in a good way.

The Federal role in public education could be suggested to include…

  • Special grant funding and financial reporting standards
  • Common Core standards for interstate portability
  • National data standards
  • Management of “market” imperfections
    • Food and transportation for the poor
    • Disability benefits
    • Incubation of innovation

If data and reporting are indicators, we already have much of the accounting and decision architecture in place for these functions at the macro level. A continuing dialogue is needed, of course, especially in the following areas…

  • Rethinking financial standards that are student-centered
  • Common Core State Standards – revisions and adoption
  • Refinement of data needs for student outcomes and education effectiveness

In addition, today’s emerging global economy demands that the US take a stronger role in the education of its people to remain competitive. Now for the micro level…

At a local level, States and their school districts address the following exigencies…

  • Student populations and their learning needs and distributions
  • Matching of resources to students
  • Creating the milieu/incentives, for effective learning
  • Managing the quality assurance process

Trouble is…we have been try to do this while accounting for budgets for

  • general education,
  • special education,
  • food,
  • transportation, and
  • capital spending.

In a world where our mission should be maximizing student outcomes while minimizing costs, we have been managing the costs alone. And we have been linking the money to the Federal concerns, not the local students.

Financial accounting standards made business performance transparent nearly a century ago. Public services, such as PK-12 education, have similar needs for mission-driven budgets and performance measurement. In addition, existing regulatory accounting places undue control over resources in the hands of specialists who operate in a relative vacuum and, without whom, leaders cannot read or present their financials. Inefficiencies, myopic vision, and episodes of corruption are guaranteed until financial standards for schools support greater transparency.


Entry filed under: Financial data, Information Technology, Issues and Ideas.

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