Excessively Complex

Witness the Achilles Heel of bureaucracy as demonstrated by my local elementary school (and probably many others in the state as well). Members of the legislature are working (in vain) to ensure that our children get an excellent education. Leaders of the NEA/UEA are working (probably in vain as well) to ensure that teachers do not get overworked in the process. The result is that legislators make laws governing those things that they are able to measure such as the amount of time that students spend in schools. Naturally, more time in school means a better education so they set minimum standards for how long children must be in class each year. In the other corner, the teachers unions are pressing to minimize the amount of time that is required for teachers to be in the classroom – more specifically they are working to make sure that the teachers have adequate time for lesson preparation without having to work 90 hour weeks (seems like a fair request to me). These two competing demand collide each Monday at our local school where, in order to allow the teachers more time to prepare – and in order to not go under the minimum classroom hours for the yea – the students start school 7 minutes early for the students and ends an hour early.

That is the complexity that I can make sense of. Then there is the complexity that seems entirely unnecessary – our school is also burdened by having an early track and a late track. The best I can figure out is that they are trying to stagger students arrivals, recess, and lunch times. Combined with early-out Monday it makes for a schedule that the parents are lucky to grasp let alone the students. Why do we have students starting at 8 minutes after the hour, because starting on the hour would mean that they get 4 hours less instruction over the course of a year, which would obviously not look good when the numbers were reported to the legislature. Someone up there came up with a nice round number and called it the minimum acceptable standard for hours of instruction. Starting at the quarter hour would mean that the teachers get 4 hours less preparation time over the course of a year (which is probably more detrimental than the previous option). I wonder why I get the feeling that we are a bit over-regulated in our public education.

2 comments for “Excessively Complex

  1. January 14, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    I’ve seen the worst part of the complex school district rules: the time and attendance system. I was helping a moderately-sized school district in Georgia setup their software and the complexity of tracking the myriad rules created by various unions made for at least one full-time position. I was astonished at how each little group had to have their own special rules instead of agreeing to a less-complex uniform set of policies.

    Whenever someone tries to tell me there isn’t some administrative fat to be trimmed in school districts or that unions aren’t causing any problems, I shake my head, recalling the intricacies of classified vs. non-classified, minimum hours rules and so forth.

  2. January 14, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    So an insider’s perspective confirms the causes of my parental headaches? Thanks for the confirmation Jesse.

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