To Compete or Collaborate

Schools seem caught up in competition these days. When I was a student the competition was left for the sports fields and academic clubs like Chess Club, Quiz Bowl and Science Olympiad. These competitions promoted school spirit, pride and showed off student talents to the community. Competition is natural in between individuals, helping one strive to grow. This allows us to see if we are measuring up with others. Students feel pride with victory and return to practice hard in the face of defeat.

Now days schools are competing in more places. Since school of choice laws and for profit charters have popped up on every corner schools are competing for students, funding, rankings and staff. This competition is different than before, not friendly or for local pride but for survival. Similar to two rival businesses competing for consumers dollars. Is this new type of competition good for education?

District rush to be the first with a technology tool to market to students, many have forgotten to train staff and research best proposals. Money is spent on radio, billboard and television adds to lure students into choosing their school. Crafty vision statements and names have been used to make one school seem better than another. Wealthy district lure poorer districts top staff away by marginal increases in pay but hope for a future. It seems like we are running education like a highly competitive business.

Shouldn’t districts be collaborating? The majority of school funding comes from state school aid. All schools have the same goal to educate all students that walk through the doors. Should districts valuable financial resources be spent in competition as teachers re-create lessons that are being taught through-out the state? Wouldn’t we all be better served if lesson plans were shared. Instead of districts spend time creating their own PD each district could share their expertise with each other. Students would stay put, building strong schools in every community instead of leaving some districts abandoned.

Let’s make all schools succeed through district collaboration, leaving the competitions to the sports fields.