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The Wall Street Journal.

Six Sigma Schools?
January 15, 2003

If you can't be No. 1 or No. 2 in your market, you have no business being in it at all. That was Jack Welch's mantra during his storied chairmanship of General Electric. So we're wondering how he squares this advice with his new position helping one of the worst performers in its market -- the New York City public school system.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced Monday that Mr. Welch will head an advisory board for the Leadership Academy, a GE-inspired institute designed to teach New York's public school principals. In addition to heading the advisory board, Mr. Welch will also teach. "This is a real thing. This is not B.S.," he said, adding that he saw many similarities between what principals do and what business managers do.

No disrespect to Mr. Welch's record, but there is one pretty obvious difference between American business and American public education. It's called competition.

In a report issued the same day Mr. Klein appointed Mr. Welch, the Manhattan Institute's Jay Greene and Greg Forster presented data showing that public schools in San Antonio and Milwaukee were strengthened by the competition created by school choice. In the San Antonio school district of Edgewood -- where a privately funded scholarship program has offered vouchers to all students since 1998 -- the district's improvement in test scores outperformed 85% of all Texas school districts.

Before moving over to the New York public schools, Mr. Klein served in the U.S. Justice Department, where he famously argued the case that Microsoft was an effective monopoly. Given the schools monopoly Mr. Klein today finds himself presiding over, maybe the business leader he turned to for advice should have been Bill Gates.

©2003 The Wall Street Journal



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