Home > Uncategorized > McKinsey Analysis of Post-Pandemic Public Schools Optimistic… and Naive

McKinsey Analysis of Post-Pandemic Public Schools Optimistic… and Naive

April 22, 2020

The McKinsey Consulting group is generally staffed by young, bright, ambitious and creative young adults who bring their considerable talents to bear on big picture issues like strategic planning and ideas for the future direction a corporation might take. The only thing that hampers the teams is that they often lack a a real world grounding and the result of this is a naïveté that makes a jaded practitioner skeptical. The recent report from McKinsey on post-pandemic public schools is a good example of what I am talking about. The report offers an analysis of the future based on four broad priorities:

There are four priorities for school systems: maintaining health and safety of students, staff, and the community; maximizing student learning and thriving; supporting teachers and staff; and establishing a sound operational and financial foundation. In each case, we believe that issues regarding equity—that is, ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable are met—should be front and center, both during the closure and after students return to school.

This is a completely valid and realistic goal… but one that cannot be realistically accomplished given what lies ahead for public schools and the realistic scope of their ability to address the unarguably important “issues regarding equity“. A quick look at each of the four priorities illustrates the real word Inability of public education to address each:

  • Maintaining health and safety of students, staff, and the community: Given the lack of funding and the lack of agreement on the mission and purpose of public schools it is hard to believe that schools alone can do any of the above outside of their four walls.
  • Maximizing student learning and thriving: As noted in earlier posts, schools are currently ill equipped to address the needs of app students, especially those disengaged students whose interests are not addressed in school and those students who enter and attend schools while experiencing a succession of adverse childhood experiences. Without more money (see the last bullet), accomplishing this ambitious goal will be even more daunting.
  • Supporting teachers and staff: Money for schools and for safety nets outside of school would go a long way to make the working conditions more favorable for teachers and staff… and higher compensation would make the profession more attractive. Again, the final bullet is the most important one in order to fulfill this priority.
  • Establishing a sound operational and financial foundation: When I read the first sentence of the second paragraph of this section I was immediately convinced that the authors of this had never spent a minute talking to any public school leaders. The recommendation that “...schools start looking for savings in areas such as utilities and transportation, and asking vendors for discounts” is based on the naive notion that schools HAVEN’T done these things already! That recommendation must be a boiler plate one from the late 1970s, for that’s when I recall reading it in a journal for administrators and school board members. This just in, McKinsey: from 1980 onward the schools have been picking low hanging fruit in non-instructional areas and, alas, in some cases have NOT taken care of their infrastructure and basic needs because the funding for them has disappeared. And worse, the road ahead looks even more perilous for school funding.

The naive optimism that the application of business principles, the coordination among agencies, and the setting of clear priorities will create a better post-pandemic world is grossly naive. As written frequently over the past several week, this is not a time to try to “get back to normal” because the normal we are striving for is pre-2008 world that will never exist again. NOW is the time to determine how to create a new vision for public education, one that will need to operate on less money and, therefore, need to work ever more closely with parents, child care agencies, and the public at large.


%d bloggers like this: