Management of Virtual Schools: Centralization vs. School Autonomy

from Dr. Steven Guttentag
Chief Education Officer at Connections Academy As the Chief Education Officer of a virtual public school program with 10 schools serving more than 3,000 K-8 students in 7 states, I have to be able to compare data among our schools, as well meet the reporting functions of our state and district partners. I must also develop tools and systems that can be leveraged across all of our schools. How much do you standardize and automate, and at what cost? Technology, by its very nature, pushes standardization. However, we know that good schools are lead by strong principals who have authority commensurate with their responsibility. But technology and centralization are only part of the equation. Public education at its foundation is a local endeavor, and the role the principal plays as the local administrator is crucial. You must strike a balance between choosing the data you need with the flexibility given to the school principal to lead with independence, creativity and autonomy. Choosing metrics that provide you with comparison school data such as attendance, report cards and teacher communication, while allowing for leadership from the school principal help to create the new context for learning that is a virtual school. The default should be school-level control, ensuring that every standardized process or metric must be supported by a direct link to student learning.