Posts Tagged leadership

TEDxAAS – My first one…

The students in charge of this did a fabulous job!!

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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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Leadership and Learning

Jay McTighe, one of the gurus behind Understanding by Design, has posted this video on his recent encounter with failure.  It speaks to the issue of leaders who are often marked by age that is associated with their experience. Even Jay is showing his age despite the fact that he is only 7 years my senior. (This fact caused me to go peak in my mirror.  Yikes!)

At the AAIE conference, this was apparent as I looked across a “wise” crowd of international school leaders.  The focus of the weekend was technology and the overall content of the conference fell short of accessing the robust technology available today.  That doesn’t mean it was a bad conference – just bereft of the tools we were discussing.  I would suggest that it drove home the point of the separation between digital natives, digital immigrants, and digital dinosaurs.  While Jay is talking mostly about learning (and learners), I’m suggesting that his insights also provide a unique focus on leaders who are desperate to remain open to innovation, but are challenged by their own fear of failure when addressing a complex and constantly changing context.

Marc Prensky helped us to understand through his keynote that our issue is about the difference between nouns and verbs.  We need to be less focused on the nouns which constitute the latest fads of technology tools (e.g. – Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc.) and focus instead on the skills (verbs) of the 21st century.  While we need to embrace the nouns as they emerge and are adopted, the process skills of problem solving, collaboration, and communication remain static and highly adaptive to the new context.  A powerful connection when considering Jay’s insight into how we address our fear of failure.  As Jay notes:

  • Don’t give in to negative self-talk
  • Don’t let an initial failure keep you from trying again
  • Be strategic – practice, details, visualize success

Surfing at 60 is possible for even our most experienced leaders.  And I’m not talking about the ocean kind of surfing.

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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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Vindication?

With some degree of glee, I can report to you today that a Judge has finally confirmed what we knew 25 years ago – Washington State does not fully fund basic education:

The state of Washington is not fulfilling its constitutional duty to fully pay for basic public education, a King County judge ruled Thursday.The decision from Superior Court Judge John Erlick came after nearly two months of testimony last fall in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of school districts, parents, teachers and community leaders. They said the state was failing its constitutional duty and leaving school districts to rely on local levies, donations and PTA fundraisers to educate students.

By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

So, you might ask – What are they failing to fund?

From my history as a teacher in Washington during the onset of collective bargaining, consistent with my experience as principal in White River Schools, and in connection with my aspirations to the superintendency, here is my list:

  • a litany of unfunded mandates in the form of specialty legislation that has increased bureaucracy in schools to the point of choking leadership and gagging teachers.
  • a definition of basic education under the first lawsuit that was drafted to fit what the legislature wanted to spend rather than as a function of what was required to actually do the job and do it well
  • a stopgap approach to limiting funding of that definition that included a levy lid, and then levy equalization, and then TRI, and then school improvement, and then….. – you get the picture – one bandaid after another that never addressed the core problem with the first definition
  • a regressive tax system that leaves us with little option to address this court decision without completely abandoning the current system in favor of something far more fair and even – something that is unlikely to happen in the current partisan environment

If you are cheering this decision like I am, be aware that our cheers will likely fall  on deaf ears.  First, the decision comes after the legislature has already moved past its self-imposed deadline for bills to come out of committee.  Thus, unlikely to get much more than status quo for this session.  Do I hear “special session” in the wind?

Second, and also likely, there are appeals that will be played out all the way to the State Supreme Court.  Stay tuned. Long road ahead.

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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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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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Education Week: Revised Draft of ‘Common Core’ Standards Unveiled

A revamped draft of proposed common academic standards for states offers more detailed expectations than an earlier version, though the document also says that some decisions about specific curricula and lessons should be left to individual states and schools.

via Education Week: Revised Draft of ‘Common Core’ Standards Unveiled.

Direct link to standards:  http://www.corestandards.org/

Everyone should become familiar with this and its ramifications.

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Early Learning – Fighting Fade Out

One of the things on every educational leaders “to-do” list should be addressing early learning.  Similar to what Jeffrey Canada has taught us in the Harlem projects (see previous post), this project in South Shore School District is addressing this challenge.  Consistent with this is a need to look at Birth to 3 programs that address the community and daycare component in addressing the key to the future of education – a comprehensive plan for kids from womb to 3rd Grade.  This is all fully researched and connected to the latest work on brain research. Leaders must address this challenge as critical to sustainable change that has not yet been achieved.

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Critical thinking? You need knowledge – The Boston Globe

Critical thinking? You need knowledge – The Boston Globe

THE LATEST fad to sweep K-12 education is called “21st-Century Skills.’’ States – including Massachusetts – are adding them to their learning standards, with the expectation that students will master skills such as cooperative learning and critical thinking and therefore be better able to compete for jobs in the global economy. Inevitably, putting a priority on skills pushes other subjects, including history, literature, and the arts, to the margins. But skill-centered, knowledge-free education has never worked.  more…

Ed Hirsch brought this to our attention many years ago and this mantra is re-emerging as critical in a world that often swings out of balance with each new innovation.  Technology has much to offer here, but most significantly, it gives us access to vast amounts of “knowledge” that is constantly in a state of transformation.  While I value constraints on teaching critical reflection as part of the access dilemma, I propose that this confluence and fluidity of information is our best hope of enabling children to build quick and efficient access to elements of knowledge that must underlie a robust framework of process skills.  Thinking and knowledge go hand in hand on the net like never before.  So, before we tip the pendulum too far in the knowledge direction, lets seek the happy balance where each extreme is mutually supportive.

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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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Leadership from the Google Guru…

Evan Wittenberg discusses Google’s beliefs about leadership.  In the first statements, he captures the best of transformational leadership in articulating succinctly the Google vision.  The rest is about individual consideration and internal development of leadership values that reaches beyond the typical “push” model and looking more to “creating environments” where people can learn and develop their own personal leadership. (Advertisement precedes video.)

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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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NCLB Under Scrutiny

For those of us in education, a lesson in leadership and its impact on policy is underway right now in Washington as hearings proceed on NCLB impact in advance of re-authorization sometime in the coming year.  Of particular import for leaders is the implications for the improvement of teachers, a key component of the legislation that called for Highly Qualified Teachers (HQT) in the classrooms of America’s schools.  Susanna Loeb, Stanford University is attributed as the key professional looking at this dimension and the summary slide from her presentation is instructive for leaders:

Susanna Loeb's reflections on NCLB impact and forward thinking views.

Clicking the image above will take you to an Evernote link and you can also click through to her entire PPT with the data to support her conclusions.  What’s most striking about this is the clear reference to teaching quality being in the hands of local authorities and the perception that quality cannot be adjudicated from the federal level.  This is consistent with most leadership studies and team development principles in the information age and consistent with the ongoing development of professional learning communities in our schools nationwide.

This presentation also highlights the ongoing challenges of the achievement gap between the richest and poorest districts and provides research summaries that confirm that HQTP, while effective in improving general teacher effectiveness is not closing the most important gap and a main goal of the legislation.  As pointed out, it does not address the issues of appeal when looking at difficult-to-staff schools.

More links on this topic:

JZ

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Complexity Leadership Theory

A tidbit of a new concept under reflection:

emergence

Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. (2007). Complexity leadership theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. Leadership Quarterly, 18(4), 298-318.

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A leadership tidbit…

Warren Bennis (1985), an expert in contemporary leadership studies, stresses the need for self-knowledge as a prerequisite for leadership effectiveness. He wrote:

I am dismayed by the number of men and women I interview who have retired from leadership positions decrying their failure to take time for personal reflection while they were active in their posts. They have assumed positions in organizations that they did not found, and rather than initially considering the impact they might make on the organization and proceeding from a foundation of values, they have defined themselves as they went along. First, they accepted the old tenets of the organization, and then only gradually discovered what was important to them personally. This trial and error method of leadership results in an inconsistent message and a lack of commitment by those engaged in the enterprise. Leaders who make the transition from an old set of dominant values to a set that reflects their own beliefs make a substantial mark on the organization.

Bennis, W. (1985). Leaders: The strategies for taking charge. New York: Harper & Row.

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Team Leadership

dysfunctionLencioni (2002) paints a wonderful picture of the development of teams that captures a valid representation of team renewal that also serves as a reflection on the key components of ongoing team development.

At the foundation and consistent with my own beliefs is the critical need for trust at the base of a team’s pyramid.  But, as Lencioni points out, these layers of concerns must be seen as interrelated in order to get at the core of team development.  Trust, by itself, is insufficient for achieving the kind of team dynamics that result in accomplishment beyond expectations, which serves as the definition of a high functioning team.

The purpose of this blog entry is not to recount all aspects of this model of team assessment.  In my own recent experience I have been involved in two ways with teams that provide diametrically opposite examples of teams at their best and worst.

As a member of a larger logistical team, I have been both frustrated and frustrating because of an absence of the foundational trust aspect that is required for team development.  While I value that I have a role to play in this team’s success or lack thereof, it seems outside my power and control to initiate actions aimed at resolving deficiencies at multiple layers of the pyramid.  At the core, this team has little trust due to a top-down management style that is inherently paranoid.  With many demonstrations of a sincere lack of trust, it is clear that what follows is a general fear of conflict and a generative focus on individual well-being.  Thus, few members of the team have the ability to commit to the team and half of the team has tendered their resignation.  This act of exasperation is the ultimate demonstration of avoidance and, by virtue of this, despite commitments to the contrary, there is no clear indication that results are in anyone’s conscious focus.

Interestingly, however, I also serve as a leader on a more local team that is one step removed from the higher leadership team.  Similar to Lencioni’s example, this departmental team is functioning well within its own context.  As a leader of this team, trust was a critical component of our initial stages of development.  As noted in another text, Katzenbach & Smith (1993) define a leadership style that is effective at addressing the team strategies denoted by Lencioni.  Development of trust is often associated with a leadership attitude that inspires team members.  Leaders must often be seen as vulnerable in order to illicit contributions from other members that develop out of concern for the well-being of the team and organization — and each other.  Thus, this focus satisfies three areas of the triangle – trust, commitment, and results.  Accountability and conflict emerge in the processes once team members are engaged.  Thus, we get a self-perpetuating cycle of commitment and accountability.

As Katzenbach & Smith point out, each team is unique in defining the skills needed to lead.  While in one instance, a leadership style applied as highly management oriented fails, in another example, honest servant leadership leads to distinct gains.  This should not be used as an argument for a more lenient leadership style.  Quite the contrary, this is just a cautionary tale that reinforces the fact that each team of experience needs to be uniquely addressed as to its respective strengths and weaknesses.  The dynamics of team development continue to emerge as unique and interesting in the realm of leadership research.

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Grand Champions


Grand Champions

Originally uploaded by chinazurfluh

Shared leadership is tremendously enjoyable when you have people so focused on making it a special event for others. This year’s Pinewood Derby was an example of like minded people coming together to serve the enjoyment and fulfillment needs of their sons. It was a day for the family as almost 100 boys competed in a racing competition with their personally crafted wooden cars. It’s impressive to watch this unfold and with 4 years under my belt, it was especially powerful to see how it has developed over the years to what now exists.

My thanks and appreciation to my com padres on the Derby Committee. It was a powerful team led by Mr. Russ Porter. He is settling into his new leadership role quite nicely and we can feel confident as our boys transition to Boy Scouts, that we are leaving the pack in good hands.

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