Harmful/Helpful Competition in Education

Dear Reader,

Most economic systems operate under the expectation of competition.  There is a direct correlation between the rise of consumers and the rise of competition in a fair system.  But not all competition is held equal.  Some versions of competition bring about unintended or undesired outcomes, like a dip in product quality or customer service measures to offer lower and lower prices.  Other versions bring about the best in organizations and producers, driving them towards innovation and progressive offerings to set themselves apart from their competitors.

As it pertains to schools, it’s important to segment the types of competition which are helpful from those which are potentially harmful to the overall health of individual educational institutions and the overall quality of education available to students of all types.  For example, there is a well-documented history of educational tactics which sought to enhance, exaggerate, or even misrepresent test scores and proficiency levels.  A longstanding complaint among teachers has been too much focus on test scores, which diverts time that could have been spent on other important core educational opportunities (cultivating creativity, encouraging diversity, collaboration, etc).  It’s important to realize that these misguided efforts were due to competitive expectations, which drove schools towards a narrow view of the function of the school; when the school’s driving force changes from maximizing a student’s potential to force-fitting a student into a pre-determined range of pre-selected proficiency standards, it’s safe to say that the competition created by expectation has brought about a potentially adverse result.

The best version of competition in schools is the sharing of best practices.  Most public schools are not actively competing for students.  In many districts with enrollment boundaries, there is no incentive to market their school to students outside the local area, as the residency requirements don’t allow for transplants.  As such, public schools are really only competing for quality.  Increasing the quality of the curriculum or the prestige of the athletic department can have tangible benefits that impact the school, whether directly, by increased families moving into the district to attend the school, or indirectly, with increased property values creating a higher tax base.  As such, there is nothing to lose from a free flow of information between these non-competitive districts.  On the flip side, private schools or charter schools which actively compete for students similarly benefit from learning best practices that improve the quality of their school.  Their method of gaining access to this information can vary, but, mirroring the business world, it’s critical to know what your competition is doing that might benefit your organization.  It’s not cheap mimicry, but essential re-invention based on established best practices from successful schools.  It’s education, after all; if you’re not learning, you’re falling behind.

Here at MWOS, we pride ourselves on our large network of educational partners.  We are eager to showcase these partners as often as we can, as the solutions we bring to them are then integrated and transformed in application.  I’m consistently amazed at the ways schools invent to use our products; they teach me as much as I teach them.  Importantly, these techniques are usually transferable to other schools; the longer I work in the education market, the more I realize my charge is spreading the ideas from one spot to the next, creating a interconnected network moving toward an efficient ideal state.

To assist with these efforts, MWOS will hosting our first ever “Education Technology Showcase” on Thursday, May 11th at our Tinley Park showroom.  The event will be school-invitees only, which presents an excellent chance to learn about the solutions and technology MWOS offers and hear first-hand accounts of how these products are being used in schools all over the Chicagoland area.

Please register for the event @ and clicking on “Education Technology Showcase”.

Thanks for reading.


-Mark Koll-