Getting A Second Opinion
The Need for Consumer-Friendly Expertise
Local and state school boards, legislative committees, parent organizations, and business and community groups are often asked to endorse or approve education policy. Typically, the policy is supported by an authoritative recommendation—usually a panel of educators, an employee of the recommending agency, or a handpicked consultant. Rarely are such requests accompanied by an appraisal by an expert that is sympathetic to the consumer’s perspective.
The result: Every year, public oversight groups unwittingly approve flawed plans and policies because they are told mostly about benefits and not about risks and costs. The history of American public schooling is littered with the results.
Confronted with proposals that may have substantial support, offers of outside funding, and other sweeteners, skeptical non-educators are rarely able to do more than acquiesce to the inevitable. Funded proposals, in particular, have few natural enemies—despite the fact that they so often turn out to be fads or failures. Once they gain approval, there is little chance of reconsideration no matter how they perform. Funding attracts stakeholders, and stakeholders create permanence.
The Education Consumers Foundation believes that public consultation and oversight should serve more than a public relations purpose. Decision-makers need access to experts who treat the consumer’s aims and concerns as an unrivaled priority. That need is served by the Education Consumers Consultants Network.
The educational aims of the Consultants Network are those of its clients. Education’s consumers want students to acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to succeed as adults. They want schools that are doing all that they can to bring about that outcome.
Dissatisfaction with public education stems largely from differences between educators and the public regarding the priority given achievement outcomes. Most educators have been taught that knowledge and skill acquisition is less important than the use of correct teaching processes called “best practices.” They view basic skills as desirable, but no more important than “thinking skills” or other facets of intellectual and emotional development.
Policymakers, taxpayers, and especially parents want schooling that will produce all of the above, but with a solid grounding in basic skills as the indispensable minimum. To education’s consumers, schooling that fails to produce basic skills is unsatisfactory regardless of what else it produces.
The vast majority of complaints voiced by parents, policymakers, taxpayers pertain to inadequate student achievement, not a lack of innovative programs. Relative to the educational concerns and priorities of most educators, the consuming public’s insistence on a minimum of foundational skills for all students is a “conservative” perspective. Progressive or conservative, the services rendered by the Network reflect the aims of its clients.
For More Information
Click here to see the current members of the Education Consumers Consultants Network.
Click here to see sample Second Opinions.
For help in finding a consultant whose expertise fits your needs, contact:
Education Consumers Foundation
Phone: (703) 248-2611
Fax: (703) 525-8841