In the past couple of years, have you noticed how many fast food chain restaurants have undergone a complete facelift? This is a photograph, taken with the Pano application on my iPhone, of our Oklahoma City KFC restaurant on 23rd street. Wow! What a change from the “typical” fast food restaurant!
The physical environment has been altered dramatically in several of the McDonalds restaurants in our area as well. Booths and traditional tables have been replaced, in areas, to bar stools and small tables.
Boring, functional lights have been replaced with trendy lights that remind me of Starbucks or Pottery Barn.
The marketing messages and service focus of McDonalds has changed fundamentally as well. Instead of the traditional, “Big Mac and fries for everyone,” now the emphasis is on “drinks made to order.”
Flat screen televisions now adorn the walls, showing product prices and (in some stores) live television like CNN.
If McDonalds can re-invent itself as the “McCafe,” what about our schools?
I share the frustration of many others at the complete LACK of change we’ve seen in U.S. educational policy under the leadership of President Obama. I wonder if our political leaders see any alternative to the current recipe of high-stakes accountability, threats, and coercion to force states to open the coffers of public education dollars to private interests?
If McDonalds and KFC can reinvent themselves, why can’t our schools? Thankfully our K-12 public schools are not businesses (yet) where money and profits are the bottom line for all decision-making… but I keep coming back to the idea that the ECONOMICS underlying the way our schools are funded needs fundamental change. Where is the incentive to change in our public schools? Everywhere I’ve heard about innovative charter schools finding success, I’ve seen and heard about “regular” public school educators and leaders who see those successes as a big NEGATIVE and a threat which needs to be eliminated, rather than a successful model which could be replicated. Here in Oklahoma, the court case started by Tulsa Public Schools against our state charter school law (which only permits charter schools in TWO districts, our largest, Oklahoma City and Tulsa) was finally dropped. Public educators in so many places seem hell-bent to kill charter schools, which threaten to siphon off much-needed funding for public schools. Some of the most innovative schools we see are charter schools (as well as rural schools,) but these schools are almost never seen as “possible models” by most schools, particularly large urban ones. Where are the prospects for change in this environment?
I don’t have the answers.
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