Based on your description, it seems like you have a cursory idea of the orgainizational structure of your school district, but very little knowlege about how things get purchased, out of where, and who is responsible for what. Based on your description, I have you pegged as a support tech, and there is 1 maybe 2 other people in the IT department (like a Technology Coordinator/Director and maybe a Network Manager). No?
In truth, you should be celebrating the fact that your department is under the Assoc. Supe of C&I. Tech needs a department, and only the biggest districts are willing to make the Director an assistant/associate supe, so you either get to be under C&I or under Business. Your purchasing issues might get better under business, but the C&I side can get more things done, and is better for coordinating implementation. And can be used in your situation here if you know what to do.
You make mention of your "purchaser" which I am also going to assume means someone at a site. This is typically how things go wrong. See, not everything is handled through the district budget and depending on your superintendent, schools frequently have significant lattitude in making their own descisions and purchases. Most of the time, not such a big deal. For tech: big deal. Now here's where you need your director of C&I, because that person is the direct pipeline into the sites, and the principals will listen to that person. So you only have to convince one person that the purchases are bad, and then it gets filtered out. Do you have weekly C&I or Educational Services meetings? You should. This is the place to get yourself (or really, your director) on the adgenda and demonstrate the problem. Don't explain it, it won't do any good talking.
Now it also seems like you need to learn how school budgets work, because if you are public K-12 there is very little ability to take from one budget and move to another. Something else is going on there, and you probably aren't important enough to be privy to what's going on. Budget swipes have been prevelent in schools over the past 2 years, and part of it is because states are withholding categorical funds that were originally promised to balance their own budgets. Just last week we were informed that we wouldn't be getting $72k of categorical money from the state that was part of this year's budget, and then we had to start shuffling, because you can't make major changes in the middle of the school year. If you want to work with those in charge, rather than against them, try dialing back the mistrust.
As far as no money, I'm going to guess that there is money out there. What is your ERATE filing? It might take some work, but most districts are leaving federal money on the table.
Funny that you mention a work of fiction that's more about religion than it is about education. The ideal in the USA since the beginning of public schools has been to hire women as teachers, due to "being gentler and more sympathetic towards children" (Horace Mann), with the added benefit that you could pay them 1/3 of what you would have to pay a man making them an "attractive and economical hire". Which is completely reinforced by your cited (fictional) evangelical going on a mission for god into the rough wilderness, teaching manners and hygene for pennies and then marrying a man when her mission is done (which also means that it's time for a new teacher).
I guess when your ideals are that fucked up and antiquated, then yes, unions seems like a scourge and everyone needs to get off your lawn.
I think you're sort of on the right track. The problem is how much do we respect the students' ability and right to informed consent? Do the students' have a voice at all, do they deserve one, and for that matter, how informed are the parents going into these experiments? This is true of both large and small project, and solutions are hard to come by, which is part of the issue with the snails pace of educational reform.
NCLB isn't a new idea, in fact, that isn't even the real name. It is actually a set of additional rules for Title 1 funding from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from 1965. Title 1 federal funds have had various stipulations through the years, and the current AYP goals on annual tests are just the latest. There are other sections, also, like Title 3, which deals with funds for language learners. The federal government can't influence educational policy directly, so they gather up as much money as they can, and then attach as many strings as they can, so that eventually federal policy becomes mandated at the local level. Who does this affect the most? The least funded schools in low socioeconomic areas. Wealthy school districts don't need Title 1 money, and have always been able to just tell the feds to screw off.
But since not all schools are funded the same way (in California, look at the "Basic aid" vs. "Revenue Limited" issue which ensures the disparity) the federal money is very, very important to some districts. In fact, my current position is funded entirely through federal funding sources. Some here (actually many, having read through the comments) would say I'm exactly the kind of person who is part of the problem with public education and spending. I work out of the district office as a technology coach for integration with curriculum and teacher training, as well as a bulk of the data collection and analysis for student performance. Here's a quick hint: if you make test scores and data more and more important to schools, they will hire more and more statisticians and administrative analysts.
Anyway, sorry for the rant. I get that people all over aren't happy with what schools are doing and how much they cost, but I also don't think people understand how complicated it all is, and how impossible it is to deliver on all the expectations with a fraction of the money. It wears me out a bit.
It's funny you chose that title, as Huxley would very much disapprove of what is going on here. Thousands of students planted in front of machines getting the knowledge they need placed inside of them... which is admittedly an exaggeration for effect, but one that I believe in.
I took Thurn and Norvig's into to AI class and was pretty thoroughly disappointed. But I am also disappointed in most of what went on in my undergraduate school, and equally disappointed with myself when I was yapping in front of calculus students at the UC when I was lecturing there. The problem is that lecturing is really crappy for actually learning anything. However, it's the easiest thing to do, and scales remarkably well. Furthermore, adult learners love it. Especially those who have already learned something about the subject. The process usually goes: student learns something marginally well, hears a concise explanation/lecture on the subject later, things connect and click into place, and then the learner says "well why the hell didn't they just do that in the first place?!?". The answer is that it wouldn't have worked in the first place. It works now because of the scaffolding afforded by your earlier education (re your HS courses being blown out of the water).
It was best said at a paper presentation I went to recently that "we need to get out of this mode of believing that if we can just find someone to explain things better than anyone else then we can record it, package it, and solve all of our educational problems." Students need to do, experience, build knowledge and skills. Sure, lecture can be a part of it, but I think most people find that exercises, study groups (especially the more collaborative ones), labs and other more constructivistic experiences are what made the content from lectures stick. So the answer isn't in the content, but rather the glue that does the blending you speak of above.
While having slick creation tools is a cool thing, this won't end up working for public K-12 schools, at least in California. There's this thing called the Williams Case which requires all schools to have one copy of a textbook for each student in a class. Sure, the case was decided before digital textbooks were a possibility, but this has caused significant problems already with digital textbooks. Schwarzenegger tried with the digital textbook initiative to get things started, and there are even free, CC licensed, editable books out there already (disclaimer: I am an author for CK12). Nobody is using them because of the problems surrounding Williams compliance.
So while tools are nice, the problem is infrastructure and law. Which are, unfortunately, most of the problems those of us in education face when trying to make things better.
You're right. However, I must say that as a public school math teacher I chafe a little at the "inside public schools" comment, only because most of us inside really, really want to change, but it's mostly not inside factors stopping us, but outside influences (things like the math wars in the 1990s).
I have a colleague here who is a veteran top-notch math teacher who did his masters thesis on gender segregating his 5-7th grade math classes at a prestigious secular private school. Not only did the attitudes and engagement of the female student improve, but the male students also showed higher satisfaction and achievement.
The people who didn't like it? The parents. After the study concluded they couldn't keep doing it because parents fought to keep them from segregating the classrooms, facts be damned
Asynchronous inputs are at the root of our race problems. -- D. Winker and F. Prosser