Retooling the District Operating System for Dynamism

crpeSteven Hodas of the Center on Reinventing Public Education recently wrote a report describing the crucial role of what he called “DOS,” short for District Operating System. Hodas defines DOS as “a set of unsexy, below-the-radar functions like procurement, contracting, IT, and HR that determine the look and feel of what schools do. It also determines how effective and responsive schools can be, since it is through the DOS that districts define their problems, seek their answers, and acquire their tools.”

DOS is certainly not a topic in education that gets the most headlines or creates the most water cooler conversation, but it needs to be discussed more. Certainly, education professionals understand the reality that the behind the scenes work at their school or other educational institution is essential. But it is Hodas’ claim that “the reason we are dissatisfied with our schools is not because they do the wrong things but because they do things wrongly, whatever the thing is” which truly deserves our attention.

We often think of politicized education reform efforts as our best hope to help American students, but we also see how reform efforts, either liberal or conservative, can be derailed by political changes before they have a true chance to take effect. Either that, or the will to carry through the changes called for by the reforms fades. In Hodas’ vision, there is a chance for educational success regardless of the reform vision because in his view, whatever is being done should be done well. This cannot take place without concentrating on the details of DOS.

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