Four broken feedbacks in public K-12 education

I believe that most problems are caused by broken feedback loops.  In 2009, I listed four broken feedback loops hurting quality in the public K-12 education system.   These include parent choice, teacher quality, grading and student discipline.

This weekend, the Wall Street Journal features basketball star Jalen Rose’s efforts to make a difference in education with his Leadership Academy charter school in Detroit.  Jalen addresses these feedback loops.

Parent choice:

“We didn’t cherry pick these kids,” says Mr. Rose. “They chose us,” he notes…

“There should be parental choice,” he says clearly. “Schools should be open. If it’s a public education, and the school in your district is poor-performing, you should be able to put your student or kid wherever you want.”

Choice could be relatively easily implemented, he says. “I’m a taxpaying citizen, right? So if I’m paying $4,000 worth of taxes and I don’t want my kid to go to this school, why can’t they give me my $4,000 and allow me to pick where I want to put my kids?”

Teacher quality:

His school also doesn’t have tenure for teachers. “I hate tenure. Tenure allows teachers to put their feet up on the desk and possibly have a job forever. That’s why I got turned on to charter schools. It’s a business model. Every employee and every teacher will be monitored by performance.”


“This is college prep. We expect 90% to 100% to go on to college”

Student discipline:

Kids too: “We have a code of conduct here. If they act up, they’re suspended. They come back with a better attitude.”



2 thoughts on “Four broken feedbacks in public K-12 education

  1. I’m glad Mr. Rose is getting interested in education. Every citizen ought to get involved in this issue. I’d love to engage him and any others who think and speak this way on these levels:

    I’d love to teach in a situation like the one Mr. Rose describes; however, as long as our society and communities hold on to certain preconceived ideas, only charter schools and private schools will do what he advocates. It’s illegal for public schools to do this without a charter, and it’s against the mission of any serious Catholic school.

    I like the idea of feedback loops, particularly the idea Bill Gates calls the “positive feedback loop,” something his software ideas created many times for customers in the 1990s. Having seen a number of these breakdowns in my own career, I largely agree with your 2009 assessment.

    I would like Mr. Rose to justify the taxation of $4,000 (or whatever amount) in the first place (why is that money better when it comes back from the bureaucrats who take it, and why do we need those bureaucrats in the first place?), and to explain what he would do for students whose educations must, due to special needs, cost much more than $4,000 and therefore are not profitable enterprises for charter or private schools. If only the $4,000 accompanies a student who has a $7,000 need, then no school with a responsible business model can accept them.

    As I state at, I’m not sure I can agree with Mr. Rose about the viability of his school’s goals. Blessed as he was with prodigious talent in his chosen endeavor, Mr. Rose never had to worry about a market for his services, and his two years at Michigan prepared him well for his brief but profitable professional career. Do his schools prepare students for actual careers or just the pursuit of mediocre if not meaningless sheepskins studying in fields that generally do not cultivate marketable skills? Is he teaching them to be mechanical engineers or social engineers? We need one kind more than the other. I think a challenging education focused on good citizenship, habits of good scholarship, and actual job skills might serve students better than the virtuous-sounding “college prep” standard.

    Suspending students is pointless — it’s a vacation for the habitual rule-breaker. Mr. Rose should explain his school’s policy on expulsion. If students and their families really value what his charter school delivers, then, once they’ve seen someone kicked out, they’ll strive more sincerely to meet behavioral standards. How about a suspension in school, where the work still must be done to standards, the behavior has to meet standards, but we suspend the social and fun privileges that usually go with school, not the student?

    Love the blog — I, too, am a huge fan of ex-Marxist Thomas Sowell and the great Milton Friedman, who won a Nobel Prize back when you had to do something helpful to get it.


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