A Three-Dimensional Public Management Approach in Kansas City
Public management is required by public institutions for success to be achieved. Nevertheless, when a wrong approach is taken, there can be serious system functions’ failures. Adapting theories of public management can assist in running public institutions efficiently. It is important to embrace these theories since it is known that there are many challenges that face public management and to overcome them a workable approach is required. In the education system, perennial failures have been experienced in Kansas City District Public Schools (KCDPS). This has led to persistent dismal performance as well as the transfer of many students to private and suburb institutions. The system that is used to manage these schools has failed in facilitating the revival of the existing schools so that they can attract more students. This system’s dysfunction happened during the 80s when many schools became half-filled with students’ performance declining gradually.
Measures taken to help this situation included spending more money in making the schools more appealing. Nevertheless, the overall enrollment was at 35,000 at that time in comparison to that of the 60s which was 70,000. Currently, the enrollment of Kansas City District Schools is about 17,000. Obviously, KCDPS public management does not suit the place. It is therefore important to adapt a different, new approach for this schools’ system to be more appealing and to improve performance.
Currently, the score of about 70% of the students in KCPS in English Language and Math is below average. Arts proficiency has also been deteriorating even with the operational and management systems of the schools being improved. The system’s failure can also be clearly seen from the fact that most high school graduates from KCPS are not ready to start college education. Science and social studies’ scores have improved in KCPS over the past years. Nevertheless, proficiency scores are still below 30%. This trend is indeed worrying to parties that are concerned in the region. When the achievement of a KCPS student is compared to that of other districts in the state, KCPS student ranks lower. Predictions indicate that the trend is likely to continue and these students will continue lagging behind those in the other districts.
Laurence Lynn and Caroline Hill outline the vital approach that should be adapted by KCDPS board in their Public Management: A Three-Dimensional Approach. They argue that this approach will enable learning in the region to regain its exciting experience. They propose a three dimensional approach which entails adapting cultural, craft and structural perspectives in analyzing and finding an ideal solution in the management of public schools. In this paper, the problems of the system of public education in Kansas City District Schools are explored extensively. The paper will employ these three approaches with more efforts being made to come up with a strategy for overcoming the challenges.
Laurence and Caroline Hill (2) argue that in public management, communication and command chain make the structural aspect of the public system. Efficient channel of communication and a clear command chain assist in the identification of problems as well as allocation of responsibilities to different people so that a solution can be realized. They note that when such structures break, confusion occurs when there is a problem. There are miscalculations that leadership in Kansas City District Schools System has made and these are causing several problems. The leadership does not focus on real issues and this has led to system failure in the district. It is apparent that problems in the system of education in this district have been there for decades. This ought to have enabled the leaders to identify steps that they should take.
The other structural failure aspect was seen from the prejudice of the stakeholders in the district. Politicians and educators were unable to agree on proper strategies to implement in order to revive the system for education in this district. More accountability was required from all stakeholders in the system for some ideas that were proposed to be implemented. Instead, these stakeholders chose to use excess funding in the system yet the approach was not successful.
Worth noting is that as of that time, most white students were no longer in the schools because they left for private and suburban schools that are located outside the district. They did this because this education system was unable to guarantee them future success. As such, joining the neighboring competitive and well-established schools was the most ideal option for them. Due to the failure of this system of education in the 80s, Russell Clark, the Federal District Judge was given the responsibility of bringing it back to its efficiency in order to enhance academic success by Judge Arthur Benson. Apparently, this was not a good approach to this problem. He noted that KCDPS had failed due to unconstitutional segregation whose dilapidated facilities were its characteristic. Ordering for increased funding was the most ideal option in order to build modern educational facilities and to refurbish old ones to enhance the provision of unique courses. This would help in attracting white students who had fled to other schools.
Although Judge Russell thought about such measures, the education system in the district lacked efficient structural aspect that is necessary for the identification of failures that happened within the system. The problems were past the dilapidated infrastructure of the schools as well as teachers who were paid poorly. The Kansas City District Education Board did not work efficiently because it did not discover ways that could be used so as to identify the channels that schools would have used in contributing to the achievement and moral of students. More than $2 billion was channeled into the KCDPS and it did not bear fruits because there was no increase in students’ enrollment as expected. Actually, there has been a continuation of increased cases of indiscipline among minority students within the schools. This further put the white students away from these schools. Several teachers note that administrative support lacks when dealing with cases of indiscipline in the schools. Clearly, the management system in the district schools does not have appropriate measures for guiding teachers on the best way to handle cases of indiscipline in schools.
Consequently, structural failure in the chain of leadership can be seen as the main reason why performance has been declining among the students in these schools. The education board failed because it did not identify the appropriate methods of dealing with the students in motivational ways in order to enhance their success. Instead, the high funding that has been channeled toward increasing the salaries of the teachers has not born fruits. Perhaps, structural failure has made devising methods that would enhance performance difficult. Apparently, there is a problem on the way teachers handle students. The contribution of all stakeholders towards success is required in public management.
The way people relate among themselves and with those outside the institution is defined by their culture. As such, effectiveness in public management as well as administration can largely be influenced by culture (Lynn and Hill 67). A clear fact is that the society of Kansas City is culturally diverse. It has the whites as well as the minority races. There are whites and minority Latinos and Blacks in these schools and they all learn in similar environments. Education stakeholders within this district have not considered culture as an aspect that can be causing system failure. Instead, they have previously been concerned about increasing funding in order to enhance infrastructure so as to attract more white students after they fled to schools in the other districts in search of quality education.
The Kansas City District Education Board should have been concerned about white students fleeing in the 80s. The desire of the parents of these students was to have a system for education that provides their children a competitive advantage over other districts. Nevertheless, financial constraints may have been the reason why minorities did not transfer their children to the other schools. It is worth mentioning that more than $2 billion funding channeled in the education system in the Kansas District did not bear fruits due to lack of comprehension of cultural factors that affected educational performance. There is a large minority students’ population in this district than that of white students. This might be contributing to the perennial decline in educational performance in the district.
Social disintegration is currently increasing in minority families within the US. This is also a factor that could be contributing to the problem of the education system in Kansas City. Majority of families in the district have a single parent. They also do not have appropriate social orientation which could guide students about the way they should conduct themselves. As such, most students are victims of indiscipline cases since they do not have role models back at home. Focused students are known to avoid activities that are likely to affect their dreams negatively. Instead, they work hard so that they can achieve their dreams in life. There are clear cultural variations between races and they should be considered while devising the right teaching methods to ensure that all students benefit. Failure to be sensitive to culture has made several students to transfer from this district to the schools in the other districts where performance is better. There has been a three-point variation in score of the black and white students for some time now. This shows that for the gap to be bridged there is something that stakeholders should do. It is also vital to point out that minority students drop-out has been increasing even with strategies for attracting more students being implemented.
Additionally, it appears like educators within the schools in Kansas City have been resigned to accept that there are students who are broken to a level where they cannot be assisted. Cultural shift is required for educators in the schools in order to enable them to handle indiscipline cases. The main problem is that in their attempt to assist these students, educators use punishment only. Leaders in public management are required to handle problems with an aim of helping the victims. Thus, punishment is not an ideal approach for enhancing academic standards in the district. The methods that were used earlier in an attempt to enhance education included building better facilities for schools and renovating old schools, funding the system, changing the system and increasing the salaries of teachers. These have not been effective in improving students’ performance and attracting more students.
It is apparent that a cultural perspective has not been considered in approaching poor performance. This indicates why the past strategies have failed to improve the situation. Instead, white students who the stakeholders expected to return to the schools never came back. This increased problems because minority students always consider this as racism. Cultural shift ought to include a mechanism for encouraging students to remain focused in their life regardless of their background culturally. There is prejudice among educators which led to inadequate measures that would assist minority students in setting goals that would enhance their achievement. As such, these schools require reformation so that they can be institutions that enable students to learn how to improve themselves every day.
Discipline is a virtue that is learnt and acquired progressively or gradually. As such, education stakeholders ought to ensure that cultural awareness as a vital aspect improves educational performance among the students. Learners vary in several aspects with some being able to handle situations better than others. Children who live with better parents who serve as their role models are able to learn morals easily at school. These are among the factors that have led to KCPS students’ failure over time. Cultural approach seems like the major aspect that can change the expectations and attitude of the students towards life forever.
Public managers have a responsibility of making decisions that can solve problems in their jurisdictions. For this to be realized, clear comprehension of what takes place within public arenas is required. Comprehension assists in setting goals and formulating plans for achieving them in a timely manner (Lynn and Hill 3). If public managers do not understand what they should do at the time of difficulties, they fail to provide appropriate leadership. Managers ought to work and lead against odds while making appropriate decisions in solving problems when they occur. In the past years, Kansas City District Schools’ leadership has tried to devise measures for helping the situation. Nevertheless, this has not helped in improving the situation. This is due to several factors with lack of comprehension being one of them. This is why the leadership has taken wrong approaches which have made achieving positive results difficult.
For certain goals to be achieved, the whole team should be coordinated properly so that it can have a direction regarding what to adapt and implement. The past leadership has recorded big failures in the administration of education system in Kansas City District. In 1985, Judge Clark became the management leader. He depended on State and Federal funding incentives in boosting education. He argued that channeling more money into the education system was an ideal solution that would help in attracting students back to the schools. This did not change the education system so that the white people can consider it relevant and modern. The existing infrastructures of the schools were renovated. To attract more students, the district built new schools. Eventually, this district had the finest facilities and its education system was funded the most as compared to those of other districts in the U.S. Salaries of the teachers were also increased by 40%. Majority of the teachers were ill-trained and paying them as per their performance became the most ideal option.
The excess spending in the public education was opposed by many critics. Nevertheless, the argument of proponents was that trying this was worth in order to find out the results. As such, the notion that emerges is that this was being done as an experiment whose aim was to establish whether increasing funding can enhance school performance. Clark also asked administrators in all schools in Kansas District to list things that their institutions needed. It is vital to note that the cost of these things was high and people had to be over taxed in order to fund these plans (Wilson 20). Despite all this, expected results were never realized. There was no improvement in the students’ score and drop out increased among the minority students than before.
Apparently, the approaches that education managers within the district have taken have not helped in improving the situation. Before the appointment of Judge Clark in 1985, a system that would pay teachers on the basis of results and qualifications was proposed by some stakeholders. Giving school administrators targets was another aspect. According to this aspect, the administrators would be penalized if they did not hit the targets. The aim of these proposals was to enhance accountability among education managers in the district so as to enhance students’ performance.
However, the proposals were rejected by Judge Clark and increased funding was chosen. This indicates that the craft approach as a factor is important in bringinmg outcomes within the public sector. Increased funding combined with incentives are wrong strategies that would not solve problems. In public management, accountability has to be an integral aspect. Judge Clark feared rubbing the others in a wrong way and therefore he did not do the necessary. He did not lay off incompetent teachers in order to hire qualified teachers for better results to be produced.
Strategy towards Addressing Problem
For the current situation of the education system in Kansas District to be changed, radical changes are required in order to ensure accountability among education stakeholders. This implies that the system for public management has to be restructured for an environment in which school communities have more authority in tackling problems to be established (Lynn and Hill 392). In addition, the education system should have the ability to serve various needs of the students without using ineffective rules. More importantly, schools’ operation should differ from those of non-profit organizations.
There should be smaller entities called the Community Schools Office (CSO) in the administration. These will be responsible for coordinating activities like transportation, school facilities’ maintenance and admission. The District Administration is responsible for such tasks currently. In addition to these, setting individual schools’ targets is the most vital task. Non-profit entities with the capability to achieve the targets that the school administration sets should run the schools (Wilson 23). Nevertheless, this is not to imply privatization of public schools in Kansas District. It simply means that they will be run by appointed operators so as to raise education standards. Several private operators such as Lincoln Prep and Academia Lafayette have succeeded in several schools in Kansas City. Success implies elevation of status in order to increase students’ enrollment. Otherwise, the schools that record continued failure have to close down or be used for other purposes. Students in Kansas District ought to be allowed to choose their preferred school.
In a nutshell, it is clear that establishing a system for public management for addressing real issues ought to be left to lower level hierarchy in leadership (Lynn and Hill 393). This way, accountability will be made integral to public management of the education system in Kansas City District. This matter has never been addressed by the previous strategies and this has caused the failure of the entire system. Nevertheless, the craft, cultural and structural approaches by Lynn and Hill can help in solving problems of the education system in Kansas City District. There are different ways that will be used by the system to motivate students by addressing their needs while enabling them to work on their future.
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Lynn, Laurence & Hill, Caroline. Public Management: A Three-Dimensional Approach, New
York: CQ Press, 2009. Print.
Wilson, James. Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do and Why They Do It, New York:
Basic Books, 1989. Print.