Posts Tagged control

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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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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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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Star Trek, CNY, Noah’s ARK, & Leadership

Three interesting events linked in my consciousness and have driven me into inspiration.  Stay with me while I meander through my thoughts.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year for the 10th time in Asia has caused me to look deeper into this phenomenon with each passing year.  The fireworks, the chaos, the calm and the almost surreal intermittent quiet that descends on the city drives one to ponder in more interesting ways about looking both forward and back.  The almost constant fireworks for 15 days and the non-stop celebration bring special focus to the year – more so in many ways than the calendar based version of the “western” New Year.

Stay with me now – while listening to the reverberations of crackling explosions, I remembered an episode of Star Trek entitled “The Return of the Archons” — an a often forgotten scene where computer controled minds of a civilization are regularly released for 12 hours  allowing a rampant expression of destruction and “celebration” by the population – an escape valve that balances against close control and monitoring.  Roddenberry’s depiction of the essence of humanity is played out in this way – under control and conformity of mechanistic intervention “the body dies.”  Human spirit – creativity and inspiration – are the key to life.

Follow on this with an email from AISH ala Bambi Betts:

From Peter Drucker, management guru extraordinaire:

“What is the manager’s job?  It is to direct the resources and the efforts of the business toward opportunities for economically significant results. This sounds trite — and it is. But every analysis of actual allocation of resources and efforts in business that I have ever seen or made showed clearly that the bulk of time, work, attention, and money first goes to problems rather than to opportunities, and, secondly, to areas where even extraordinarily successful performance will have minimal impact on results.”

More accurately, the allocation of resources might be described as going to the status quo in yet another attempt to maintain equilibrium.  Deviation from conformity drives us all to naturally steer the offender back on course through layers of bureaucracy and the subtleties of long standing paradigms.  These limiters provide a powerful lid to exactly the innovation and powerful deviations that are most needed in an age of economic meltdown and global disaster on our very doorstep.

So what does Noah’s Ark have to do with this.  My guess is we are all looking to a higher power in a time of fearful contemplation.  I am not really suggesting a religious theme of Armageddon here.  In the midst of the above musings, I settled in to watch a humorous film (Evan Almighty) on a modern day Noah and his Ark.  The character playing God (Morgan Freeman) in this popular movie posed some particularly thoughtful questions part way through the drama.

“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”

“How do we change the world?”

“One single Act of Random Kindness at a time. (ARK)”

So how does this connect, you ask?  The theme here is ultimately about breaking down the barriers of conformity. It’s about letting creativity and its random spirit spur us to create that which is not yet conceivable.  The human spirit is about randomness.  Chaos theory reigns supreme when you want to accomplish something beyond the status quo – and this is most certainly true when many fearfully cling to a narrow view of what is right, acceptable, and sustainable.

A complex world with difficult problems requires significant out of the box thinking.  Are we ready to initiate the “Red Hour” to solve them in the most creative way possible?

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