My Dream for a 21st Century U.S Educational System

Originally, I was going to post on dumb budget moves the Milwaukee Public Schools are making and the the stale plan the teacher’s union proposed for fixing the schools.

I don’t have time for that.

Here is my from scratch plan for the Wisconsin (and National) Education System. I wrote it down several years ago pre-blogs. I don’t have all of the sources that may have inspired me (but I will list them if they are brought to my attention).

Goal: A better, more efficient Educational System
that utilizes American Strengths and Values. Education is too important to America’s future to not be treated as a national issue.

a. Funding Equalization

– Equalization of K4/K5/1-12 funding.
– Federal per-pupil education vouchers.

b. Customized Individual Programs for every student

– Idea Based upon Special Ed IEP (individual Education Program)
– Year round programs.

c. Mass Customization:

– Multitudes of choices, options, styles, sizes, variety, niches, and possibilities in education service delivery.
– Let a hundred experiments bloom. Replicate what works, and junk what doesn’t

d. Private system with strict public accountability

– Charter Schools everywhere for everybody (essentially a mega-charter school system)
– Choice
– Public Reporting and auditing (academic and financial).
– Need an Internet based, system that is like eBay or’s feedback system, crossed with consumer reports that is available to all, with education service consumers reporting on education service providers with infrastructure provided by regional government sponsored enterprises (GSE). Have several GSE (5-15). They can be geographically unique areas of responsibility for first three years. After that they can compete with each other. Eventually they would consolidate into 3-5 GSE.
– Zero tolerance for troublemakers (the real troublemakers, not those that are the victims of the troublemakers). Create alternate environments for the bad apples.

e. Professional Excellence

– No Residency rules for teachers, staff and administrators.

– Pay teachers more, pay also for performance in exchange for accountability
1. Increase pay 40% – 60%
2. Additional bonus pay on performance
– Value-added metrics
– Whole-school metrics
– Peer-review
– 360-student review
– Job security and tenure goes away
– To transition, make this a parallel personnel system. All new teachers go into the new system, along with any old teachers who want to.
– The USA needs the education profession equivalent of the IEEE (either a new
organization or an organization morphed from former national teachers unions)
– Grow a new teaching culture
– Apprenticeships for new teachers. Structure the first two-years of teaching like an internship in medicine, with the new teacher consulting with a master teacher and receiving constant feedback, ongoing advice, regular evaluation, advice, and
further development.
– Career-long professional development programs to nurture and stimulate great teachers.
– Alternative Paths to teacher certification.

f. Basic skills for all students demonstrated with a federally sponsored American Primary Education Certification and American Secondary Education Certification.

– Learning how to learn
– American Civics, Democracy, and Citizenship
– History & Moral philosophy
– Ethics
– Lifetime fitness, nutrition, and wellness
– Basic skills: reading, writing, mathematics, and science
– Academics
– Job skills
– Communication, rhetoric, and logic
– Economics,statistics and personal finance
– Life-long learning, creativity, and problem-solving skills
– Organizing and Leadership
– Personal time & task management
– First aid, life saving, and emergency preparedness
– Fine Arts performance and appreciation
– Conflict resolution and self-defense
– Legal system basics (see examples from
– No teaching of creation science (or “Intelligent Design” or whatever else it is called) and other idiotarian pseudo-sciences as science.

I would vote for any candidate that signed onto something like this.

Update: I think some of the teacher pay stuff was inspired by a book caleld the 2% solution (or perhaps I just heard an interview with the author).

Update 11/6/2008: Teaching service delivery will most likely need to adopt an industrial model (at least in some options) to get gains in productivity and efficiency.

34 Responses

  1. No, education must never be part of the Federal government. And without an amendment, it is not constitutional. (Congressman Ron Paul has pointed this out.) Until then, centralized education is a poor model to children whose parents want them to respect the law.

    Experiments blooming is a good idea. For example homeschoolers have contributed a lot in the knowledge of multisensory education.

    Privatization is good. This puts control back into the hands of parents.

    The banning of ID is inconsistent with most of the other ideas.

    I like the list of basic skills, but the list needs to be based on the market and driven by parents. Certs are fine, they can be private and for the time state. But they cannot be federal.

    Missing is the primary and core role of parents. Where it is lacking, many guys, individually and in clubs, are encouraging fathers to make learning imporant in their families. I commend that. It is the mom who typically teaches a child to read. Parents are responsible to setting educational goals and needs.

    The merits of teaching depends on a lot of factors and I would not agree to one-size-fits all. I do encourage teachers to be come professionals, and to kick out deadbeat comrades.

    Thanks for the thoughts! There are some good ideas here.

  2. “And without an amendment, it is not constitutional. “.


    Wisconsin (my State) could implement this across the state.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Very good plan, PSlog.

    I believe that education should absolutely be equalized, vis-a-vis funding (or per-pupil vouchers) but also with Federal oversight over teacher certification (just setting the lowest acceptable standards, which should be fairly high) and minimum wages for teachers (above the normal minimum wage, of course!) Mostly, this federal oversight fits with your idea for public accountability; however, I would want only the barest minimums set at the federal level, basic guidelines. Although an amendment to the Constitution would be required for a federally run educational system, I believe that ensuring equality in educational opportunity and educational standards between districts, for all Americans, is already a part of the Constitution.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing income tax breaks (deductions, perhaps) for professionals in other fields who also commit time to teaching classes on subjects within their field. This would not only help in the “mass customization” you propose, but would bring school “out of the classroom,” so to speak, and might give kids a window view into what to expect when they leave school.

    Strongly agree with your first four “basic skills.” Civics especially is lacking in many (most?) districts or is only given a cursory examination. Moral philosophy and ethics are essential; however, here you run into combat with those who wish to shove their religion into the educational system. My sympathy with IDers only goes this far: I do believe that all perspectives should belong within the pupil’s educational experience, including ID. But these perspectives need to be explored with a heavy dose of skepticism. (If it’s a skepticism that leads to belief, after being thoroughly and fairly addressed, that’s fine, as long as that decision is left to the individual student.)

  4. BTW, I strongly disagree with Scott’s emphasis on parents, for two primary reasons:

    1. Many, perhaps most parents, simply don’t care, as long as their kids return a passable grade on their report cards. Allowing parents to have a strong say in which school their kids attend is fine, and I would support that. But the mythical “Father knows best” argument has no basis in fact for most families. Their children will be living in a different world by the time they graduation; i.e., different than the world the parents have known. So when Scott says, “but the list needs to be based on the market and driven by parents” I absolutely disagree, without reservation, except to the degree that those parent also exercise their civic duty through the vote, protest, and so forth, and have their say heard in this manner.

    2. As we have seen, parents may often be quite busy living their own lives. In the backward-looking dream reality, parents would be parents full time, able to devote the necessary time, energy, etc. (including researching all the possibilities, if necessary.) No doubt, some parents will fit the archetypal ideal, and many will fit that ideal partially; but many more never will. In any case, unless one or both parent is enabled to de-network from the workforce and devote the necessary time, with incentives, I doubt we should build a latch-key educational system: This may seem like a counterintuitive metaphor, but at present the entire lack of interest and/or time seen in many parents already produces a latchkey system, where teachers and school administrators bend over backward to avoid upsetting parents — thus avoiding many of the necessary changes you outline — while parents avoid becoming very active in their children’s education.

    I do not, however, think parents should be entirely shut out of the educational system. In any case, I believe most parents look forward to leaving their children in capable hands (what is the prestigious private school if not such a case? or the “day-care” variety public school) and the “Father knows best” reaction is merely a reaction against sub-standard or pitiful “hands” being forced upon them.

  5. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  6. That’s ok Idetroce. Feel free to share your idea. I would be interested in hearing them.

  7. I seriously think they should be teaching kids two things.

    1. How to use violence and all the social taboos dealing with such things as murder and cannibalism and why they exist. Not just the use of firearms but the knowledge of why “violence works”. Why it often you have one guy doing it and one guy receiving it and this state of things never really changes.

    2. The usage of propaganda and psychological warfare and how to defend against them.

    The system, of course, will need re-tooling but those two subjects are something I think every six year could benefit from learning. Course, we’ll hold back on the “goodies” until they are 12 or something.

  8. I think the first would come under History and Moral Philosophy which should be taught.

    The second I didn’t think of but it is a good idea, especially in the larger context of noticing manipulation and sales techniques. Yep, this would be good to add. Think soft self-defense.

  9. A lot of the problems I see with critical thinking, which people may want to supplement my Two with, is “how do you judge whether it is critical thinking or not”? Somebody has to judge. Who gets to do it? Who gets to shape the dynamics and the standards? Who gets to instruct and smack down people who think differently or incorrectly?

    In engineering, it is a simple matter since if you aren’t thinking critically you may just blow your employer up in an electric generator meltdown. Or the project goes kaput. Or the stuff doesn’t work. There’s some critical thinking for ya. Some objective standards.

    In war, the same is true. Make a wrong decision and your employees aren’t fired, they are dead and maybe roasted in hell fire as well before they die. That kind of consequences makes for pretty efficient “critical thinking”, yanno.

    But in schools? In fracking academia where they can’t rub two matchsticks together for fear of creating a bomb/terrorist/fire alert? What the heck are they going to base their “critical thinking” on except illusion, fantasy, and crack like that.

    Propaganda at least has the benefit that you can clearly see it in history, if you know what to look for, and can structure your lessons based upon that.

  10. My number one would also tend to cut down on child molestations once the good stuff are shown to the kids.

    Course, that won’t be necessary since Obama will protect all our children for us.

  11. Did Kennedy name it “No Child Left Behind” in order to maybe atone for the fact that he left that girl behind in his underwater car?

  12. On the child molestation…I don’t know if #1 would cut it down. I think child molestation is mostly by people who know the kid and I bet it is more of a psyop on the kid as a prelude to the actual physical molestation (and then continuing afterward). So, maybe #2 would help.

    I never understood how Kennedy got elected again after that. Or again and again. Or to leadership positions. Or almost a presidential; nominee. Mass is a fucked up state.

  13. For elaboration on what I mean by 1, I’m talking about a program like this one.


    It will make it harder for kids to be kidnapped since a gross physical injury to the kidnapper is going to make it hard for the kid to disappear without a trace. Also hard for the guy to be operating in normal life without being identified.

  14. First time I actually read this, great ideas. Very adaptable to fit the model in a certain area. I’ll run this over some older friends who are in the teaching field right now.

    Intelligent Design, or Creationism 2.0 is NOT real science. While I understand many religious people have an apprehension(or irrational fear) of evolution the facts on the ground remain the same.

  15. Thanks!

    The Intelligent Design, or Creation Science stuff bothers me becuase there are limits to how much instruction someone can get. I see no reason to take time away from legitimate math/science to Intelligent Design or Creation Science. I feel no need to coddle the “true believers” in this.

  16. THe Left and atheism have an irrational fear of other people’s religion. The opposite is only true for the Islamic JIhad, not American Christianity.

  17. I feel no need to coddle the “true believers” in this.

    Vouchers are not “coddling” the true believers in this. For it will be taken out of your hands and won’t impact your choices as parent.

    But that was opposed by Democrats precisely because it would allow more freedom of choice. An irrational fear of liberty by those in power should be more important to citizens of a nation than what the religious beliefs and education requirements of other people in that nation.

  18. The replacement of science education with education in the fake sciences of “Intelligent Design or Creation Science” is harmful for the future well-being of the US.

    So much of our future wealth will be dependent upon proper mastery of the sciences that the diluting of that I do not tolerate its introduction.

    If parents want to teach their kids fake science at home, we can’t do anything about that.

  19. Random thoughts:

    Vouchers: Unless grants or loans were made available for new schools, the effectiveness would be dependent on how many schools a given community actually has.

    Tying teachers to specific locations isn’t always a bad thing. A wealthy school district wanting to attract the best could offer cheap housing within its wealthier neighborhoods for teachers at those schools. A city wanting to clean up a ghetto could start by offering quality housing to teachers, police officers and other public employees who’re willing to move and serve there.

    Intelligent Design: The ID supporters want multiple viewpoints? Give them multiple viewpoints! Teach the creation myths of all the religions along with science and critical thinking! That’ll satisfy them, right . . .?

    Dealing with indifferent parents: In poorer neighborhoods, at least, consolidate before- and after-school programs in the schools so that kids who don’t have somewhere else to go can always stay in school between classes.

    • Thanks for the thoughts.

      “Vouchers: Unless grants or loans were made available for new schools,”

      I don’t see why small business loans or non-profit grants wouldn’t be available. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I just what a system that takes advantage of and harnesses the ideas of others.

      “Tying teachers to specific locations isn’t always a bad thing.”

      All of your incentive ideas are interesting and positive. They all stand even if teachers were not required to live in the district.

      “Intelligent Design”. LOL! Don’t get me started on ID. What a waste of brainpower.

      “Dealing with indifferent parents…”

      I like those ideas. I would see in this “vouchers and charters schools for everybody scheme” were lots of those type of after-school programs would get grafted right onto a small charter school.

  20. Interesting scenario [1] from John Robb (check his disclaimer) with a future education description:

    Universal K-12 schools were replaced with a combination of public online education and private in-person services. Education had finally become a commoditized in the form of a buffet of national online programs that provided state of the art educational technique tailored to individual needs (mass customization) at a low annual cost — for example, most programs cost less than $5 a day. In-person private education became a luxury item reserved only for those that could pay for the extra services.


  21. […] am thinking something like my vouchers-and-charter-schools-for-everybody plan is NOT the right answer either. MY plan is really Grade 9-12 alternative idea. MPS has failed […]


    1. Pick a state (nothing is going to happen nationally).

    2. Set up some rigorous, broad, sequenced standards, and create a testing system completely independent from the content providers. Give strong incentives to move testing on-line. (tech is getting good enough to allow for live coaching, oral exams, and even review of art/visual content) This should take 5-10% of the current ed budget.

    3. Take the remaining 90+% and have it follow the child to any content provider/educational institution that succeeds at training/educating the child up to the testing standards.

    4. Free up the entire system to design 100s, if not 1000s, of ways to meet standards. This means dissolving the massive political and bureaucratic apparatus currently spending entire states into bankruptcy with out showing that they can educate every child.

  23. […] 10.My Dream for a 21st Century U.S Educational System « PurpleSlog – Goal: A better, more efficient Educational System that utilizes American Strengths and Values. Education is too important to America’s future to not be treated as a national issue. … zh-chinese.png… […]

  24. […] 9.My Dream for a 21st Century U.S Educational System « PurpleSlog – Goal: A better, more efficient Educational System that utilizes American Strengths and Values. Education is too important to America’s future to not be treated as a national issue. … ko-korean.png… […]


    The public schools are filled with students who don’t want to be there. There is no simple way to impose discipline on them under our present structure. That is a problem that is seldom addressed, and most attempts to impose discipline on unruly students are met with lawsuits and accusations. This results in inequities: students who want to learn find themselves unable to learn anything because the classroom is disorderly, and nothing can be done about that. The kids who want to learn – bright nerds, dull plodders alike – are taxed. We have known much of this for a very long time – go rent Blackboard Jungle (a 1955 movie in which my former neighbor Jamie Farr makes his film debut). Local school districts treated the problem in different way, but we have nationalized that now, and with No Child Left Behind we have made certain that most of the teacher resources will be devoted to the dull normal members of the class who can be brought from D- to C-; not much left over for those who will earn A’s and B’s. No child left behind means no child gets ahead. Nearly always.



    “In the legacy education model, teachers combine coaching, feedback, and content delivery. By coaching I mean advice, guidance, and encouragement. Feedback includes formal grading as well as informal praise and criticism. Content delivery includes lectures and reading assignments.

    Perhaps the key to radically changing education is to break up those functions.

    1. The coach should be someone who knows the student well, who can relate to and motivate the student, who can recommend a good educational path, who takes account of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, and who stays on top of how well the student is doing relative to the student’s ability.

    2. The formal feedback can come from strangers. Students can solve problems or write essays and have these graded by a separate service.

    3. The content delivery should be “pulled” by the student rather than pushed by a teacher. For example, a student and a coach could agree that the student should learn statistics. The student then selects a statistics curriculum and works through it. The Khan Academy lectures on statistics are particularly good, in my opinion. But Carnegie-Mellon has a good on-line stats course, also. My guess is that, overall, there is enough content on line to obtain a world class education.

    4. In addition to teachers, students can learn from peers. I think that peer learning works best when students are close to one another in terms of ability and motivation. My hypothesis is that ten students who are similar in ability and motivation but separated by distance can learn better together than ten students who are in the same room but with disparate levels of ability and motivation in the subject.

    This is pretty close to the way I learned economics. Bernie Saffran was mostly a coach, giving us suggestions for topics to study. Ultimately, we were assessed by strangers (Swarthmore College has an Honors Program under which outside examiners come and administer tests).

    Most education reformers want to focus on low-end students. While this is a noble idea, I think it is not a good path for reform. When you fail, you do not know whether it is because the innovations were not good or because the student population is too difficult to reach.

    If I were trying to implement a school redesigned along the lines I describe, I would start with high-end students. Take some young people aged 16-18 who are bright misfits. The types who already would rather read on their own than sit in class. Offer them the alternative system described above. If it fails for them, you know you’ve got a bad model. But if you get it working for them, then you can try to spread it to other types of students.”

  27. Me from

    My sister is a CD special ed HS teacher in Milwaukee. While many of her mild CD students students can read and write, many of her non-CD homeroom students can’t.

    They arrive at high school with 2nd grade levels of reading/writing/math.

    That isn’t the HS teacher’s faults.

    What is the fault of the teachers and unions is that that they use none of the political clout to do anything about it. The seem to be actually against any positive reform action.

    It seems to me as a backseat school superintendent, that at the early graded levels kids should be test early often (reading / writing / math / behavior).

    Those who are advanced should get specialized schooling to get the most of their potental. They need to be put into an advanced track.

    For those who are failing/falling behind in reading/writing/math/behavior at the young grade school levels of the current system, we must admit the system doesn’t work for them. They need to put into specialized/customized alternative tracks to 1) Prevent them from bringing down the kids the system is working for; and 2) Try them out in different systems/methods to realize their human capital potential.

    The other approaches should be measured and researched to see what works and what doesn’t per different student profiles.

    Frankly, the US Dept of Ed can be abolished. The feds could add a new section to NIST as a clearing house for documentation and stats regarding the teaching methods vs student profiles and make it available for all.

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