How effective is the Department of Public Instruction?
By James Cibulka, Ph.D.
There is a need to restructure educational governance arrangements at the state level and to restructure the Department of Public Instruction. Some options for addressing governance problems are:
- Change the State Superintendent’s position to one appointed by the Governor.
- Create a Commissioner of Education position responsible for all three educational systems in the state (elementary-secondary, vocational-technical, and university).
Some options for restructuring the Department of Public Instruction include:
- Shift toward an outcome orientation and organize administratively to facilitate this mission.
- Use existing state authority to develop student learning goals for all students as they move through the educational system and link these to a coherent system of curriculum development, student and program assessment, and staff development.
- Formulate a comprehensive strategy for restructuring the state’s public school system, with a major upgrading of the role of databased management, research and development, and technical assistance.
- Include in this strategy a plan for improving performance at all levels of the system, not only those schools performing at the bottom.
- Flatten the organizational structure to facilitate a student-outcome orientation.
- Reduce artificial boundaries between regular, vocational, and special education.
- Integrate support functions (e.g., curriculum development with assessment).
Wisconsin has a long tradition of strong support for public education and a reputation for overall quality. Yet recent performance information on the state’s school system indicates little progress and a growing number of problem indicators. Meanwhile, other states continue to work on restructuring their school systems, while Wisconsin has made few efforts. Further, the state’s competition for excellence must be gauged on international terms, not any longer on state-to-state comparisons.
If Wisconsin’s elementary and secondary school system is to become the best that it can be, there must be much stronger state leadership. To accomplish this, it is time to restructure the governance and management of the state’s educational policy system.