Wednesday, May 4, 2011

School Choice (for teachers)

Imagine you are sales manager for Acme Widget Co.  You are responsible to produce and sell an excellent product while providing profits to your shareholders.  You are constantly on the lookout for talented people to help you.  See a top-notch performer working in another industry?  See if you can bring him/her to Acme.

Of course you have competition for those top-notch salespeople.  The next county over is home to General Widget Co.  The sales manager at General is also on the lookout for talent.  He too wants the best salespeople in the Atlanta area.  General is a well-respected company, recognized by the local Chamber of Commerce, mentioned by the Governor as a top-notch company, and admired throughout the widget industry. General meets all federal requirements for widget manufacturers, and takes action in areas that need improvement.  When General builds new schools factories, they quickly reassign employees and productions, using professionals to handle such a task.  General is also quick to rid itself of employees not contributing to making General (and its products) the best widget manufacturer.

The top graduates from Widget State University are eager to be employed by General.  They know General has great leadership and looks after their employees.  General even pays for continued education for their employees.  General does its best to seek not only the best salespeople, they also promote within the best employees to positions of leadership. Many of the best professionals in the widget industry across the area often transfer to General, leaving behind other widget companies.  Overall, the top widget folks in Atlanta want to work for General Widget.

But what about Acme?  They make widgets too.  But see, Acme does not support its employees.  Acme does not promote continued education (by covering costs).  Acme is recognized by government officials, but not in the way General is recognized.  The top graduates at Widget State do not even consider Acme as a future employer.  They will apply to nearly all other local widget companies, but not Acme.

So what's left for Acme?  Of course Widget State University has a bottom third of its graduates.  And lots of Acme employees have friends and relatives that need a job, so they recruit them to come to Acme.  Acme also does do a decent job of bringing in recruits from far off locales like Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those cold-weather folks see the warm weather here and make tracks to Acme.  But soon ofter arrival, they realize there is more to Atlanta than Acme Widget.  They take notice of General Widget.  They see Cobb Widget, Cherokee Widget, Forsyth Widget, St Martin's Widget, Marist Widget, even Bartow Widget.

What can Acme do to retain their best employees from fleeing to the competition?  For starters, they can conduct business more like General Widget, Cobb Widget, and Forsyth Widget.  They can treat employees better and be open and transparent going about their business.  Hire based on ability, not based on friendships, relationships, color of skin, or nepotism.

I am still in touch with a few friends in the widget industry (from my days at Cobb Widget Company). They share with me the lack of consideration top performing teachers widget makers give Acme Widget Company when considering where to work.  They don't refer friends new to the widget industry to Acme, nor do they encourage friends to apply to Acme.

If Acme is to improve its product, it needs to get on par with General Widget and the other widget companies.

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