January 12, 2009

Moving Government from the Past to the Future

ONE OF the significant challenges that we face in the 21st Century is how to move government from the Founder's pen and quill to one that better serves citizens in the Information Age. As Newt Gingrich describes it, "the world that fails (one of paper-based bureaucracies of process, check-lists, regulations, self-preservation and punishment) to the world that works (where entrepreneurs rapidly create adaptable new technologies, incenentivize productivity and innovation with rewards and encourages risk-taking)."

Imagine what that reinvented government might look like.

For certain it would have two main components that support the requirement of transperency and accountability. The first component necessary in this reinvented government would be that public sector performance gets periodically shared with citizens in some type of easy to understand public accountability statement. And the second component would provide ctizens an ability to rate the performance of their government. (The government here refers to every level of the public sector from school boards to the White House).

Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Ramon Cortines, has taken a step toward this kind of future. In the next week he will be sending parents this week a one-page report card that will provide a snapshot of how well their child's school is doing.

For high schools, the report card will provide more accurate dropout figures and display, for example, how many students are proficient in English and math - and whether that number is going up or down. New York City, which assigns a letter grade to every school, is among a handful of school districts to issue such report cards. Funding to develop the report cards came from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation while the Boston Consulting Group designed the report card with input from focus groups across the school system.

The cost to mail the report cards is estimated at around $700,000 - just over $1 per student.

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