Posts Tagged change

Another look at the future…

I remember a similar video from Microsoft that takes a look at the future – not too distant – to conjecture on the state of the world associated with products already in the pipeline.  I like to think of it as the nexus between StarTrek and reality.  We’ve seen many crossover and successful products emerge this way. On the backs of Roddenberry style imagination, the future is crafted.  Science fiction brought us cell phones and iPads.  This video suggests what is next in interactive environments.

So the question that emerges is what do we do about preparing students for a future like this? If they only used today’s computers, will they be ready to demonstrate proficiency in a world of this level of interactive demand?

Leadership requires that we move education closer to the leading edge of this kind of development. I have to prepare students for this in school, so that they can go on to dream the next level of accomplishment. The people that are crafting these new ideas were enabled at some point in their education to see beyond the limitations. Can we create another generation of unimagined innovation?

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Changing Paradigms and Getting It Right…

This explanatory video discusses ADHD and a variety of topics, but more importantly, it’s a valuable call to action against a different perspective on the needed reforms that should be taking place around the world. While I value that he has only touched on a few key topics, the references to globalization are critical to understand the complex dynamics in play. We dare not ignore the insidiously embedded nature of predispositions that have been layered upon us. Schools have effectively trained themselves into complacency and conformity over decades. Any change effort is fraught with challenge and acrimony when it confronts these well established myths of how learning should take place.

My take on the key points:

  1. We must attack this issue globally.
  2. We must dispel the grouping and packing of students. Remove the assembly line mentality to achieve the greatest gains.
  3. We have to abandon all attempts to create a perfect system to meet all needs. While I value that the business leaders want these systems to control costs, the reality is we need to spend less on obsolete materials and methods and move these resources to meeting the needs of the moment. Let’s capture the uniqueness of individuals and build responsive systems that are messy and less defined – let collaboration emerge as our primary response mechanism. (BTW – this will get rid of the teachers who want to plan really well in their first year and then repeat it 29 times until they retire.)
  4. Let’s focus our energies on truly accepting and understanding the concept of motivation and stop our practice of brainwashing children to accept carrot & stick as a way of life.

I’m sure there is more here that others would think worthy of equal emphasis. What do you think?

One reflection: Have you noticed how the successful “pockets” of innovation seem to first isolate themselves from interaction before they go public with their achievements? Look at the Harlem Children’s Zone as an example. The work there was isolated and tied to one innovator. He sold it selectively and built it as a distinct departure from the paradigms. After it achieved success, he trumpeted it and reigned in the additional resources to meet the needs of each successive generation. We see many of these “pockets of excellence” emerging everywhere. I say, let the diversity reign and let’s allow these pockets to multiply geometrically and meet the needs of the next generation of learners. Competition is dead. Long live divine inspiration and dedicated, purpose-driven organizations!!

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241 Teachers Lose Jobs

Michelle Rhee announced this week the firing of 241 teachers as part of the ongoing implementation of a broad based reform movement (IMPACT) that she undertook just a short time ago. This program is not new content and is ultimately based on work by Marzano and Waters (2009 and prior) that connects the essence of reform to the concept of “value added.” They also equate this term with words like “growth” and “knowledge gains” to give context to the meaning.

Interestingly, the media has attached this value added concept to student test scores when discussing the evaluation that took place while screening for failing or ineffective teachers. I think this may be over-simplification of the concept of accountability for formative assessment gains over time that was originally proposed by Marzano and Waters. In fact, there should be a plan in place to address both curriculum and assessment tied to these plans and accountability measures.

If she is looking only at achievement test scores, then this plan is flawed and should be addressed immediately. I doubt that based on the material I have reviewed on the IMPACT website and the foundational literature upon which it is based. I suggest that this may be the best of the recent spate of firings because it has strong pedagogy behind it.

731 additional teachers are on notice to improve. This group will be the ones to watch. If these reforms truly meet the demands of eliciting greater achievement in the classroom, then these teachers will be the test of the efficacy of accountability. Under increase scrutiny, do you think these teachers will get better? Will supports be provided consistent with the pressure as leading researchers have confirmed is critical?

The union fight is inevitable and unlikely to draw too much attention. We all know that the union works for these fired teachers are required by their policies as a representative of the teachers to pursue accordingly. It is unlikely, however, that any of these teachers will find their way back to DC classrooms because the leadership cannot afford to be undercut in their search of excellence and in the shadow of an election year for Fenty. For this number of people to move through the appeal and/or arbitration process will likely take years. I think Michelle’s staff is counting on that.

About the only thing they need to worry about is finding enough teachers to take the open positions. The salary incentives installed as part of this measure will require a decade before new teachers will be encouraged to join the ranks and fill the empty spots. This is a nationwide barrier to the kind of turnover many expect. Thus, the dance of the lemons continues unabated until we find instrumental ways to renew and inspire teachers who have been disenfranchised by incompetent leaders for decades. The underlying story of these firings has to include the question – How did these teachers remain in their posts for so long without scrutiny? What was wrong with the administration that allowed this to continue for so long? And, finally – Where do you think these teachers will ultimately land?

References

Marzano, R. J., & Waters, T. (2009). District Leadership That Works: Striking the Right Balance. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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Instructional Core

Richard Elmore, in this video clip and with the associated graphic, defines the best measure of how we should judge innovation and change in an organization.  The data that we collect must come from the core if we are to determine with any degree of certainty that these changes have been implemented and whether or not they are sustainable.

High stakes testing does not accomplish this.  Many have now written about test scores and continue to miss the point.  The scores do not inform instruction and lack the “granularity” needed to affect real change.  Teachers do not change based on either initiative nor incentive based reward.  They change, in Daniel Pink’s words, because they want to master their craft, because they have always been an autonomous lot, and because they have a special purpose that stands them apart from other professions – nurturing the progeny of others.  The talents that will change schools are those with unyielding drive that infects these other dimensions powerfully and without hesitation, as in Geoffrey Canada’s work in Harlem.  These efforts will often come from the teachers themselves when they are effectively empowered to be leaders in their own organizations.

But, ultimately, systemic change will only happen when we keep our “eye on the ball” and that means the instructional core.

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Learning 2.010 has launched!!

Jeff Utecht is being a bit pessimistic with his description of the recently launched third iteration of the Learning 2.0  conference series. Despite his apprehension, there is every reason to believe that this conference will again inspire and direct individuals along the path of creating the next generation of learning practices. Inspired by a collaboration of like-minded individuals in 2008, this conference continues to elicit strong gains in applying technology based practices in real learning environments. We have changed practices through our efforts, and yet we are still struggling with the degree to which that change continues to be hampered by politics and outdated pedagogy.

Thus, we offer the latest iteration of 21st-century thinking and give you the new and improved Learning 2.x. The focus this time will be on research-based practices in providing for sustainability through development of long-term relationships in cohorts of like-minded individuals. Of particular excitement to me is the opportunity to coordinate the leadership strand. Applying theory and leading-edge concepts on school change with a cohort of individuals responsible for implementing that change is an exciting and energizing venture. If everything comes together as planned,  there will be opportunity prior to the conference to build an essential common framework upon which our conversations will emerge. These personal learning networks (PLN) will continue through and beyond the conference and provide a significant foundation for future collaboration and support.

How can you not get excited about something like this?!

Take a look at the website and consider joining us in what ever cohort strikes your fancy. Personally, I hope you will consider the leadership strand. ;-)

http://www.learning2.asia/

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Motivation & Daniel Pink

It seems fortuitous that I wrote last night on Mike Rowe and then found Daniel Pink shortly after to reflect on the nature of motivation.  These are two very nice videos back-to-back and tell us much about the new age of work and accomplishment.  Similar to the theories (dare I say facts) presented by Pink, I’m writing this instead of the paper that is due in my doctoral class – my incentive, “grade” based class where I do work for the carrot of a piece of paper that somehow distinguishes me from everyone else – hogwash!

In reality, much of what Pink describes is true for me – I select projects where I can be creative and add to the base of knowledge rather than looking for the position with the greatest pay potential.  Performance has always been a motivator and I read about Google’s 20% only to say “Yeah!” and “Right On!!” and “That Makes Sense!!!”

The fact that we have had it wrong for so long is what amazes me.  In schools especially, we seem all too caught up in a Pavlovian reality and stretching to a different kind of conceptual framework seems unreachable.  Could it be that our most difficult students are trying to tell us something that has nothing to do with their “condition?”  Maybe we have so tightly closed the lid on our children that they have no choice but to move constantly amongst realities – one after another in quick succession – to the point that we no longer understand them because of their divergence from our norms.

Pink may have the new age of motivation in his pocket, and his dialog on the topic has inspired some divergent thinking at the very least.

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Anagnorisis & Peripeteia

This week I had an opportunity to read scholarship submissions at Wilson High School for the vocational education program.  On the table was two years full tuition and books for a vocational path of your choice (primarily encouraging state colleges and vocational schools).  Of interest was the fact that I had the honor of sitting across the table from past Washington Senator Joe Stortini, currently restaurateur of some notoriety from Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante on North Pearl in Tacoma.   Our cordial discussion and history walk was enthusiastic and energizing.  Joe was key to early educational legislation including the many tweaks to collective bargaining and implementation of constitutional mandates to fund basic education.  Between 1969 and 1977 he sponsored or co-sponsored many bills during a complicated time that included the emergence of many of the foundations that are being debated today during less comfortable economic times.

But, our discussion turned to the programs in Tacoma to encourage the options for kids beyond the typical college bound mentality that often dominates the conversation in many circles.  This is understandable in an environment focused on test scores, standards and a desire to assure that 100% of our children are prepared for post-secondary education.  What Joe and I talked about was the reality that many kids need another path – whether in the arts, or metalworking, or the culinary arts – they need a path for success that doesn’t label them a failure if they can’t get into a “acceptable” college.  The video below confirms this notion, although you will need patience to get through the dialog to reach the conclusions at the end.  But, the anagnorisis of this is clear when you consider Mike Rowe’s insight into “Dirty Jobs.”

I like that he points out we are “at war” with the notion of work.  It is clearly true that we are in the process of creating ever new generations of complacency where we have been taught that work is bad and following your passion means finding the “get rich quick scheme” that will fuel an early retirement.

Mike has introduced me to my peripeteia.  How about you?

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Motivation 101

A thought on why broad education reform is lingering despite selective successes…

In looking at organizational behavior, there is one theory of motivation that may apply to the current scenario in regards to the willingness of teachers to embrace necessary change. Equity Theory provides a basis for thinking about motivation that goes something like this:

The equity theory of work motivation was developed in the 1960s by J. Stacy Adams (equity means “fairness”). Equity theory is based on the premise that an employee perceives the  relationship between the outcomes — what the employee gets from a job and organization — and his or her inputs—what the employee contributes to the job and organization…. According to equity theory, however, it is not the objective level of outcomes and inputs that is important in determining work motivation. What is important to motivation is the way an employee perceives his or her outcome/input ratio compared to the outcome/input ratio of another person. (George & Jones, 2008)

What’s interesting about this is the “referent” or other person that is used as the comparison.  In the last decade, there has been a movement to compare teachers at a professional level to other white collar careers, and rightfully so.  Education is clearly a highly valued profession in the truest sense and many aspire to the profession out of desire to service and more intrinsic motivation.

But, when I talk to teachers, there is a terrible disconnect between the two factors described above.  There is a huge demand for excellent inputs with little potential for commensurate outcomes that would ever be considered consistent with doctors or lawyers.

So, does that mean we have to raise pay exponentially and provide incentive based rewards? Nope – not necessarily!  In fact, additional pay may not be a motivator if all other factors of work conditions remain the same.  If children have increasing needs and if demands associated with the job continue to escalate, pay and other extrinsic incentives will have little impact on overcoming the significant disparity between needed work (and there’s lots of it) and the slim possibility of rewards in a system that never seems to be “fixed.”

At the core of expectancy theory is a need for people to believe that they can achieve the expected performance level.  Have we given teachers any degree of belief that they can achieve the targeted performance?  Many reports have been published on the problems with the American education system.  Have many been published on the quality of the system?  Do teachers feel like their goals can be achieved if they go from one evaluation to the next thinking they are doing the right thing only to find that their evaluations and performance demands change in any given year without additional possibility of remuneration?

In 1993, the Washington State Legislature enacted HB 1209 school reform.  There were three steps:

  1. establish high standards and assessments
  2. provide districts with additional flexibility and resources
  3. hold districts and schools accountable for student achievement

Steps 1 and 3 have been accomplished, although accountability still seems a wavering target.  But step 2 has not been fully addressed at either constitutional nor budget level.  Thus, it is clear that a disconnect still exists between desired program change and a willingness to address the associated costs for resources and staff motivation towards these changes.

It’s easy to understand why changes in the profession of teaching are hard-fought in an era of increasing complacency.  With nothing but criticism often greeting them at the doors of their classrooms, teachers are the most difficult group to address when considering motivational strategies.  Setting standards is only one part of the puzzle.  Giving teachers a sense that a new order is not only achievable, but desirable, is the real challenge of leaders and policy makers.

References

George, J., & Jones, G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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Anatomy of trust…

This has been a busy week in University Place. Two events have shaken this community in recent days and both times I found myself on television as a bystander while events unfolded. The first was a city council meeting where parents and students showed up in large numbers after being convinced that the youth sports program of the city was about to be decimated by revenue shortfalls and looming budget cuts.  While it was accurate that the shortfalls will likely mean 25% budget cuts across the board, the cutting of youth sports was not yet in the proposal loop.  The political nature of the method used to bring this issue up on the eve of the election was called into question and the final result:  two long time council members ousted from their positions and lots of angry residents that no longer trust the council or the city staff.  I feel bad for Debbie Klosowski who takes over as Mayor in December.  She has a significant amount of repair work to do.

In the following video, look for me on the right side in the first wide angle shot of the audience.  My brother Jim behind me and to my right.  I’m sitting next to school board member and long time friend, Mary Lu Dickinson.

The second was an incident at my son’s middle school that involved an impostor who pretended to be a military veteran and spent three hours on campus before it was discovered that he actually posed a threat to student safety.

At the board meeting the following night, concerned parents expressed their frustration over the incident.  The news crew from KING TV were there again with camera at the ready.  Nobody wanted to relive the issue again, but that seems unavoidable for the near future as new information continues to come to light.  Since this person was on campus for over three hours, it’s likely they will never have all the details of what was said and to whom.

What this incident does remind us of is the daily challenges we face in maintaining trust after we’ve earned it.  In both cases, the people most affected — city council and school administration — had earned trust and respect from years of dedicated accomplishment.  Events like this can bring all of that crashing down around you in a few short minutes of either best intentions gone awry or inadvertent complacency.  Nobody deserves the lost trust that emerged from both these incidents, but that is the price being paid – at least for the moment.

One conversation I had with a teacher today reminded me of how difficult change is for all of us.  Unfettered by accountability or rigorous reinforcement, we typically return to old habits rather than sustaining institutional change.  In many ways, both incidents are the result of this aspect of both leadership and followership.  For the council, 15 years of spending growth to keep pace with city development kept them from seeing the financial downturn on the horizon.  As a result, 4 million in reserve disappeared literally overnight with little planning in place to address this shortfall.  For the school district, leading edge procedures and policies were decayed by a close knit community built on an open door policy that is decades old.  In a community like this, visitor badges and staff ID seemed unnecessary and even cumbersome.  How to change minds and sensibilities?

Kotter and Cohen (2002) bring us the best framework for institutionalizing change.  8 steps that seek not only change, but sustainability — and that’s really what’s at stake here.

Kotter, J. P., & Cohen, D. S. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 

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Which path to take…

Two Million Minutes

A debate continued to brew regarding the general focus of education and how to reconcile the differences between schools in three distinct cultures and two significantly different dichotomies.  It’s western vs. eastern philosophy about eduction and the case is being used to both deride American education and highlight the realities behind the 21st century brain drain that is emerging in the United states.  Robert Compton says we should fear India and China.  Michigan State Professor Yong Zhao says “Wait one minute.”  So what now?  Where do we begin to reconcile this and what next in the debate?  These two points of view will generate the next decade of debate while schools languish in static complacency with teachers feeling more confused and disheartened than at any time in history.  Where do we turn for leadership in an environment where we are still debating Nation At Risk 25 years later?

Robert Compton Makes His Pitch

Yong Zhao’s Response

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Update to Microsoft Surface…

I stand corrected. It looks like Smart Tech (www.smarttech.com) has got one in the works. Would love to know how implementation is going. Anyone?

Click here - The SMART Table

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In reflection on Jeffrey Canada…

After discussing the Harlem Children’s Zone…

What would you rather have, a blanket of mediocrity, or a quilt of excellence?

This American Life Podcast – Interview of Jeffrey Canada

Baby College – where it really starts.

Bringing the best of understanding childhood to the parents of Harlem.

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Leading Change

In the current world, change seems to be our greatest challenge. Creativity seems to be accepted as necessary to competitive competence, but the sustainability of change is something quite different. I’ve been party to many “new ideas” that have disappeared and reappeared in what seems to be associated to the whim and tide of perception.

I value comments about managers who lack willingness, but I would add that there seem to be many factors that impact the ability to institutionalize change. Daft (2008) offers us a systematic approach to change and includes a cyclical  process. Others, including Reeves (2009) offer pre-conditions that they refer to being similar to “weeding before planting.”

But I like my version of the analogy of the fish.

  • If you give a fish to someone who is hungry they eat for a day.
  • If you give them the parts of a fishing pole, they have a 50/50 chance of survival for more than a day.
  • If you give them a fish and the parts for a fishing pole, they may be able to survive long enough to learn how to use the pole, but many will still fail in their attempt.
  • If you give them a fish, parts for a fishing pole, and you sit down with them to share the fish and teach them how to assemble and use the fishing pole (with appropriate modeling and monitored independent practice), they’ll be able to feed themselves for a lifetime.

Self explanatory?

P.S. – Should we treat managers the same way when leadership is their hunger?

References

Daft, R. L. (2008). The Leadership Experience (Fourth Edition). Mason, OH: Thomson South-Western.

Reeves, D. B. (2009). Leading Change in Your School. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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Open House at the Zurfluh’s – Farewell…

Please join us on June 14, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for an open house before we start packing up.  We’ll have memory books and lots of good treats for all to share.

Farewell Invitation

Map instructions ala Google:  Click Here

Please join us!!

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