Phi Delta Kappa's recent audit of the Wake County (North Carolina) Public School System should be viewed with healthy skepticism. Case in point: the educators group recommended that Wake tighten its "very liberal" policy on "site-based decision making" (i.e., the central office should give principals less autonomy). The full report points out that "Site-based decision making has... created inequalities among schools," because, well, some principals make better decisions than others. As lead auditor Rosanne Stripling so tautologically puts it, "The quality of the decision making relies on the quality of the principal." That much is obvious. But just because such disparities exist is no reason to shackle all principals. Indeed, as a recent Fordham report shows, imposing uniform strictures on school leaders is a good way to stifle innovation and stall progress in a district. Principals who repeatedly make bad decisions should have their decision-making abilities severely restricted (i.e., they should be asked to find a new job). But responding to uneven principal quality by limiting autonomy for everyone is bad thinking, and certainly no way to generate positive school change.
"Audit: Curtail Wake principals' power," by T. Keung Hui and Kinea White Epps, Raleigh News & Observer, September 5, 2007