By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Reforming public education is not a phantom or a mirage, according to a Swarthmore College grad. It can be done and the secret is not money.

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Harold Kwalwasser was general counsel for the L.A. schools during a time of unsuccessful education reform, but he kept his eyes open, notably on the similar Long Beach School District nearby.

“They spent $1,800 less per-student, per-year and got far better results than we did, and that’s because they were organized brilliantly. They focused on student learning. They pushed decision-making out from the central office to the principals and the teachers and they empowered to deal with every one of these kids.”

His process of studying 40 school districts for his book Renewal solidified some principles: recruit, train and motivate leadership and teachers, always improve and adapt, and don’t lose sight of even a single kid.

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He says Philadelphia’s aim to decentralize could do that. “You can’t simply decree tomorrow that I’m pushing out all the decision-making to South Philly or whatever.  You have to have people out there who can grasp control and do it.  You have to give them goals, make them understand what their job is and then support them.”

Which he says is exactly how any other operation would work.  And he says it can actually cost less.

Click here to learn more about Kwalwasser’s book or order a copy.

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