Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Posts & Articles Explaining Why Schools Should Not Be Run Like Businesses


'For Sale' photo (c) 2009, Ian Muttoo - license:

It’s not uncommon to hear that our schools need to be run more like businesses. That argument holds a lot of appeal to some people (including, but not limited to, people who might make a profit out of it).

I thought I’d bring together a few resources that provide a counterpoint to those beliefs. I’m starting off with a short list, and hope that readers will provide additional suggestions in the comments section of this post.

You might also be interested in A Beginning “The Best…” List On The Dangers Of Privatizing Public Education.

Here are my choices for The Best Posts & Articles Explaining Why Public Education Should Not Be Run Like A Business:

My Sacramento colleague Alice Mercer has written an excellent post titled The Business of Education. Here’s a short excerpt:

While I think there are some things that can be learned from best practices in other fields, trying to adopt reform models from business on a “wholesale” basis ignores some basic differences between the function and ecology of public education, and a for-profit business.

Diane Ravitch provides a good response to the third question (which is on the topic of business models and schools) in this Public School Insights interview.

Nancy Flanagan points out that schools might be able to learn some things from businesses, as long as we look at the right businesses.

Why schools can’t be run like a business tells a well-known story illustrating that point.

I’ve written a post about some of the consequences hospitals are experiencing in their efforts towards creating more “efficiency” and its implications for schools. It’s titled Should “Efficiency” Really Be The Driving Force In Hospitals (And Schools)?

“The Price Is Double” — Two Stories About School Reform & Money is another related post I’ve written.

Turning the Tide: Taking Competition Out of School Reform comes from Edutopia.

Déjà vu all over again: A lesson from the history of school reform is by Mike Rose and appeared in The Washington Post.

Business and Education Don’t Mix is by Walt Gardner at Ed Week.

What Do Teachers “Produce”? is by Diana Senechal and appeared in the Core Knowledge Blog.

I made some revisions to my book excerpt that appeared in Education Week recently, and it was just published in The Washington Post. My small changes connected the idea of helping students motivate themselves to school reform, and how perhaps making schools adopt what some see as business practices might not be a good idea.

Students & Their Families “Are Not Consumers”

Social Norms Beat Market Norms is by Diane Ravitch.

Are Public Schools Supermarkets? is by Walt Gardner at Education Week.

Principals as Management, Teachers as Labor is by Walt Gardner at Ed Week.

Why I’m Against For-Profit Schools is by Chris Lehmann.

The corporate lobby and public education is by Valerie Strauss at The Washington Post.

False Choices: The Economic Argument Against Market-Driven Education Reform is a report from Minnesota 20/20.

Privatizing Public Schools: Big Firms Eyeing Profits From U.S. K-12 Market is from Reuters.

The Dialogue With the Gates Foundation: What Happens When Profits Drive Reform? is by Anthony Cody.

Confronting the Free Marketeers: Will They Plow Through Us? is by Anthony Cody.

Profits, Lies, and Education Innovation is by Audrey Watters. I’m adding it to the same list.

Why schools aren’t businesses: The blueberry story is from The Washington Post and tells a well-known story, but provides a little more context to it.

“Corporate Reform” or Failed, Desperate Corporate Management? is from School Finance 101.

A Teacher’s Advice to Commissioner King: How Schools Are–and Are Not–Like Business is from Diane Ravitch’s blog.

Run schools like a business? Flip that theory to see flaws is a great op-ed appearing in a North Carolina newspaper.

Nice NY Times Column Today: “Teaching Is Not a Business”

The Efficiency Index is by Walt Gardner at Ed Week.

Success Metrics Questioned in School Program Funded by Goldman is from The New York Times.

President Obama On Those Who “Want To Blow Up The System”

Catherine Blanche King: Why Education Should Not Function Like a Business is from Diane Ravtich’s blog.

Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt appeared in The L.A. Times.

Again, I’m sure there are quite a few other excellent articles and post out there on this topic. Please let me know about them.

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.

You might also want to explore the nearly 600 other “The Best…” lists I’ve compiled.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. I recommend “To improve schools, stop treating them like businesses” by Laura Pappano that appeared in the Jan. 4 issue of the “Christian Science Monitor”. Laura Pappano is, among other things, author of “Inside School Turnarounds.”

    Here’s the long link:

    Here’s short link to the article that I ran on Twitter:

  2. To all of those experts out there:

    The business world is always trying to hold the world of education to their standards. As educators we believe that it is time to hold businesses to the same standards that we are responsible for upholding.

    So from this moment on, this is what we expect from the business world! We would like your business to be held accountable for the success of other businesses that purchase your product.

    When you are selling your product to other businesses we demand that you are accommodating the needs of your customers so that you can meet the demands that each of your customers have. We would like you to design your sales presentations to fit the needs of nonreaders, visual buyers, auditory buyers, kinesthetic buyers, deaf people, blind people, people in wheel chairs, people with all physical and mental handicaps, people that speak every other language other than English.

    We would like to base your pay and your compensation on how successful the people that use your product are! It is your job to prove your success with real sales data and numbers.

    We would like you to find a way to sell your product to all customers regardless of their income, their intelligence, and how successful they are in using your product. And we are mandating that you must do this for all of the above mentioned people and make it against the law if you do not fulfill these conditions.

    We would also like to hold you accountable for selling your product to people that have no use for your product, and that have told you right up front that they have no use for your product. And we mandate that you must make up your sales presentation to all customers that do not show up to your sales meeting regardless of the excuse such as family emergencies, personal health issues, or any other reason even including that they just didn’t feel like it!

    We demand that you must try to sell your product to other companies even if the boss of their company thinks that you are a complete joke and have no value to anyone! We also demand that you try to sell your product to customers that have unrealistic expectations as to how your product should work or actually does work.

    We demand that you must consider the input of your customers even if they tell you how to run your company and you know their ideas are bad ideas!
    We demand that you have no choice who you can sell your product to.

    We say that it will be OK if the public distorts the truth about how your company works and that it is OK to put these distortions all over the media in anyway that the public chooses and they may release these opinions for every one to see. There shall be no connection to reality when it comes to spreading opinions and it should make no difference how inaccurate these opinions are because that is the freedom of speech and it is exactly what our forefathers would have wanted!

    If someone with no knowledge of how your product actually works or is produced, you must let their opinion take priority over what you know as an expert on your product even if you have been building and selling your product for more than 20 years!

    We demand that you must try to sell your product to customers that are not even having their basic needs met. You must try to sell your product to starving people, people with no shelter, and to people living in horrific living conditions. We demand that you sell your product to people that are abusive, that are criminals, that could care less about anything but drugs and alcohol!

    Your performance rating on all of the above conditions will depend on how you well you meet all of the above stated conditions! And lastly your pay will be determined by your success! In addition, any additional costs that may be incurred meeting these conditions shall not be reimbursed, you must take it out of the company budget!

    This is the world as an educator sees it and maybe people would have compassion for educators if they could see the world through the eyes of a teacher!

    A concerned teacher in 2011!

  3. The article I always refer people to is “What Does a Business Do With Inferior Blueberries?”

    The original article was written by Thomas Hanson in “School Administrator,” June 2004.

    This is a followup blog post about this article

  4. Nice post, as always. Here is my contribution, Do you have customers, or students in your classroom and school?

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