During the state of the union address, Obama praised the Bruce Randolph school in Colorado for turning themselves around rather dramatically in a few short years.
Three years ago, Bruce Randolph was one of the poorest performing schools in Colorado. In 2010, 97% of the seniors graduated. Many of the graduates were the first in their families to get admitted into college.
How did they do it?
Sen. Michael Bennet and the school's principal Kristin Waters, convinced the Colorado government to give the school almost complete autonomy from the state's education bureaucrats over budget, staffing, schedule, school calendar, and curriculum.
One of the first things they did is terminate all of their tenured teachers and told them they could re-apply for their jobs. Only 5% got their jobs back. 95% of the tenured teachers weren't up to par.
The Gate's Foundation has done significant research into why public schools fail. Their conclusion is that it's all about teachers. The producer of the movie "Waiting for Superman" came to the same conclusion. Good teachers succeed and bad teachers fail our children. It's not any more difficult than that.
In the private sector a business can: A.) fire bad employees and B.) pay good employees a lot of money. You can't do that in government. That's the problem. It has to change.
If we're really serious about fixing the public schools, we need to give principals the ability to terminate bad teachers and reward great ones with substantial performance bonuses tied to international test scores. We also need to get schools out from under their state's education bureaucracies and let the principals and the parents who have kids in the school have a greater say in how the schools are run.
This is how the Bruce Randolph school was able to succeed. It's how other schools will be able to succeed as well.
Unfortunately, the teacher's unions have viscously blocked every attempt to implement these types of common sense reforms.
The big question is whether or not Obama and the Democrats are willing to do battle with their largest specialist interest group (the NEA) so that our kids can have a fighting chance in the global economy?