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Consultants Vs. Real Live School Administrators, Part 5

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From today's Washington Examiner, via The Quick And The Ed:

Communications breakdown caused boxes of sporting goods, computers and other essential equipment to be left padlocked in a shuttered District of Columbia junior high school for almost an entire year while a neighboring school was starved for supplies, a city consultant told The Examiner.

From the June 21 edition of The Nation:

The [bus route] chaos was caused in large part by the financial consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal, an outfit the department hired without competitive bidding at $16 million to find $200 million from the [New York City] department's budget to divert directly into the schools...The net savings for all this grief: $5 million, far less than what was originally estimated.

I'm not saying that district folks always get it right -- just that high-priced consultants are no guarantee of efficiency and performance either.

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The problem with internal and external review activities is rarely the diagnosis or the prescription, it is typically the implementation. Reformers of all stripes may not be familiar with the strategist Karl von Clauswitz, but substitute "education reform" for "war" and many have first hand experience with one of his central concepts - "friction."

"Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen war."

Internal reformers understand friction and set expectations for success so low that outsiders can't detect the change. Naive outsiders set them so high they are doomed to become mired in friction, bloodied and bowed, and then loathe to fight another campaign.

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