How Bureaucracy Stands in the Way

Posted by on September 10, 2012

The Gordian knot of red tape

A new brief from the Broad Foundation lists 75 ways that bureaucracy impedes student achievement. The brief identifies “numerous bureaucratic challenges” for urban-district central offices and state education systems that may explain why well-intentioned efforts to improve public schools have failed. Bureaucratic systems, policies, and practices that have built up over decades in inner-city districts have led to fewer resources actually reaching the classroom, preventing teachers from getting support to meet individual student needs, and disheartening people in and around these systems. No one is to blame, the authors write, but these challenges must be addressed to improve America’s public schools. Policies and procedures — which may comply with laws and regulations — often don’t allow school systems to pursue their core mission: advancing student achievement. Some examples are the fact that most principals, who are often former teachers, have never had the management training necessary to efficiently run school operations, or that teachers lack instructional pacing guides to ensure students learn in a timeframe consistent with other schools by pacing delivery of curriculum across the school year.

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