As Brookline parents, we know the School Committee members are all honorable people. They are our neighbors and friends. Yet thoughtful citizens have a right and duty to question their agenda. It is not necessarily a problem that there are three corporate MBAs on the Committee, and only one schoolteacher. It is not necessarily a problem that two of those MBAs work for Bridgespan (Bain & Company). It isn’t even necessarily a problem to bring corporate thinking to the difficulties facing our schools. A diversity of perspectives is valuable.
But it might be a problem. Brookline schools didn’t become great because business thinkers drove them. They didn’t become great because they were measured, analyzed, tested, and corporatized. They actually became great because of creative leadership at the schools, excellent and committed teachers, and a community that supported and funded them. We still have much of that, but we may lose it if we continue to subject our schools, teachers, and students to trendy testing and analytic demands.
One example: some School Committee members believe that new measures of assessment and incentive will help close the ‘achievement gap.’ But there is abundant social science research (see 2014 NEA Report on Teacher Diversity) to suggest that achievement gaps close most significantly when teachers come from the same backgrounds, ethnicity, and/or gender as the students they are teaching. Thus, as in many school-related things, closing the achievement gap will require deep, creative, soul-searching work, work that’s best left in the hands of experienced educators.