The Dallas Morning News came out today in favor of Dallas Independent School District superindendent Michael Hinojosa's reform plan, Dallas Achieves!, which is designed to root out the waste in the system and make it more accountable to students and parents. No one could argue with the plan's core mission of improving student achievement by making the system's sprawling operations more efficient, but there are a few whispers here and there that the plan is a thinly veiled attempt to give the business community more control over public education. A hallmark of the plan, in fact, is to outsource many system duties to the private sector while adopting some hallmarks of the business world, like merit pay. Not surprisingly, many of the Dallas Achieves! commission members hail from the worlds of real estate, technology and finance.
To those same skeptics, the Morning News' support of Dallas Achieves! has become something of a crusade, which extends to shooting down people who haven't embraced the plan. Two school board members who have questioned parts of it, Lois Parrott and Adam Medrano, have both endured the wrath of the paper's editorial page lately. Parrot particularly suffered, losing the paper's endorsement after she questioned Hinojosa's proposal to give bonuses to principals whose schools make academic progress. Personally, I think this can be a good idea, but it's not the slam dunk the paper thinks it is. Merit pay for principals could cause them to overemphasize test scores, manipulate the results or even compete to work at schools where it's easier to post big gains in testing.
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My point is, Dallas' Only Daily is oversimplifing some of the issues involved here. Talking about education is extraordinarily complex, and reforming it falls under the management principle that holds that for every change you make, there are several unintended consequences that could cloud the original intent. The paper's editorial board seems to do a thorough job researching its positions, but it could stand to concede that things are not always as simple as ABC, 123. --Matt Pulle