Mesco Tectonics K-12 School
Re-imagining one future of education
Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Coffman Distinguished Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Indiana State University
I was wondering about how and why charter schools, religious schools, and private schools are different than public K-12 schools. These thoughts collided with the idea of the company town and company store which produced the question “Why not the company school?” Why doesn’t Mesco Tectonics have its own K-12 school, MTHS, to train people to work in their corporation? Mesco is a fictional high-tech corporation with interests in bio-engineering, pharmacology, technology control systems, and medical prostheses. Mesco is a generic modern manufacturing company. HR professionals at Mesco can try in frustration to find qualified employees from high schools, from community colleges, from colleges, or they can plan ahead and develop a K-12 school to prepare tomorrow’s employees. Some MTHS students will join Mesco after high school; some will join after college, and some will work elsewhere. Mesco has a nearly guaranteed supply of qualified workers. Many current high school and college graduates do not have the knowledge base or skill set to work at Mesco, and the situation will get worse as the knowledge bases and skill sets get more complex and more dynamic.
What would a company school look like?
What problem does MTHS solve for Mesco Tectonics? Knowledge and skill workers are in high demand. Knowledge and skill workers who can adapt quickly to changing work processes and learn new things are rarer still. Mesco needs skilled workers who are able to learn and adapt, to work in teams, to think critically, and to require little supervision. So why not create a school to educate a pool of potential employees to meet those needs? Who better than Mesco staff to manage the macro-curriculum? They have a good idea of what knowledge bases and skill sets will be needed in 10 years. Who better to respect knowledge and skill workers like teachers? Who better to base pedagogical practice in published and replicated research than a high-tech corporation whose very existence is based on research and data-based practice?
Mesco wants the best teachers, so starting salaries are double the going rate. The job interview is a week-long stint in the classroom, and the measure of a teacher’s success is student learning. Declarative and non-declarative learning are the only outcomes of interest, and student learning is measured weekly at MTHS. High school would take at least four years of math, of science, of English, of Social Studies, of a second language, and at least two years of art, music, and culture. That was my high school curriculum 50 years ago! Working backward, the middle school and elementary curriculum would prepare students for high school. Learning social skills and teamwork is as critical as learning algebra. Learning critical thinking is as valuable as learning Spanish. Learning history is as critical as learning to use a spread sheet.
What gets taught in the micro-curriculum depends on the changing nature of knowledge and skills and of the needs that Mesco has. Some students will train on last year’s technology recycled to the school from Mesco and will become skill workers at Mesco after graduation and some MTHS graduates will work elsewhere. Some MTHS high school graduates will go on to a university and become knowledge and skill workers at Mesco or go on to work elsewhere. Those interested in art, or language, or psychology, or management will fill appropriate work roles at Mesco in marketing, communication, human resources, and management.
With money from the state for each student, with an additional $2,000 per student per year from Mesco (a tax incentive), and an additional $2,000 per student annually from parents (but this can be 200 hours of work at the school and is a tax incentive for parents and for Mesco) the school will be well funded.
Imagine what a rational group of Mesco professionals, from all fields, will do with the school day and the school year. Having idle equipment and staff is a bad thing in the business world. Imagine the before and after school programs for the students whose parents who work at Mesco? Imagine the money saved on buses and on high-cost sports that have low return on investment for learning transformed into direct support for student learning. Imagine the enrichment programs available from Mesco’s business partners, suppliers, and customers, all with a tax incentive to those companies.
What are the choices now?
Most charter schools are clones of public schools. Based on the data I have seen, most students at charter schools don’t perform better on standardized tests than students in any other similar group. Most charter schools are old ideas in a private enterprise package.
Private schools fall into several categories; high achieving students, rich students, one ethnic group students, one religion students, and so on. I grew up in New England and we had the choice between public schools, residential prep schools for the rich and / or high achieving, or if you lived in a city, Catholic schools. Private schools had a specific agenda; preparing students for high prestige private colleges. Catholic schools had a specific agenda; reproducing members of the church through education.
The idea of the company school is not new; it is a recycled and timely vision based on our own history. I can see the future now, the metropolitan championship soccer match between Mesco Tectonics High School and Initech High School.
I confess that I don’t speak K-12, and this helps me think differently as I re-imagine education in the future based on education in the past. I am not suggesting that a company school is a good idea or a bad idea. I am suggesting that thinking about schools is usually very restricted, and I propose company schools as a contrast to contemporary thought about charter schools. A reality check on this plan will reveal that should company schools take hold, then marginal, low ability, and different students will be left to public education. From a manufacturing point of view, if a supplier is not providing a quality product, get a new supplier. If you can get the government to pay for 80% of the costs for the new employee supplier in the form of company charter schools, this becomes a viable business option.