Micromanaged school systems not working

Good managers expect results from those whose work they supervise. They make expectations clear, then avoid telling people how to do their jobs.

Contrast that with how West Virginia public schools have been administered for decades. Virtually anything a school principal can say or do has to be preceded by consideration of whether the rules allow it.

How has that worked out for us? Not well. Not at all. In some measurements of school quality, West Virginia is near the bottom of the heap in comparison to other states.

An intelligent response to that would be for state officials to make expectations clear, then get out of the way. The consulting firm that conducted a comprehensive “audit” of public schools said as much in 2012. West Virginia has “one of the most highly centralized and impermeable education systems in the country,” the consultant’s report noted.

Yet two years after many state officials, both in the Legislature and the state Department of Education, claimed they had learned their lesson, nothing has changed. Legislators continue to micromanage public schools, with suggestions such as mandatory physical education classes.

This year, lawmakers decided to make school principals’ jobs even more restricted. They approved a bill placing new limits on what teachers can be asked to do during their planning periods.

Teachers already are required by law to have daily planning periods. They need them – in part to wade through all the red tape mandated by state and federal regulations. Many still have to handle tons of work, including grading papers, at home.

But current rules already limit what principals can ask teachers to do during their planning periods. The bill passed this year would ban principals from asking teachers to do anything during their planning periods, except for “occasional” conferences and meetings with other teachers.

Micromanagement of Mountain State public schools has not worked. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should recognize that and veto the planning period bill.