Friday, September 26, 2014

We should Just Lead and Manage our Educational System like a Sport

One of the biggest problems with our education system is the lack of common standardization and uniformity across our nation. For years Federal and State Educational Departments along with their secretaries and superintendents of education have tried to establish common goals and standards with little success. The main reason this never happens is politics and state versus federal control.
What a shame people can’t see the only losers in this on-going senseless battle are our children. Even now with the ridiculous effort to implement common core standards all you read about are all the groups and individuals who are either for it or against it. How ridiculous was it to establish two different testing agencies who set-up their own means for measuring results – “STUPID”
When will leaders wake up and realize the Educational process is a “System” and it must be managed and led like a system in order to develop common standards. Once we are on the same page then continual process improvements can take place based on established process and results measures. One of the biggest areas that should be standard is creating Grading Scale for all schools K-12. Grades and the ACT/SAT Scores are needed for colleges to make decisions for admissions and scholarships. I’m not saying this is the ideal means but until something better comes along we should at least try to have a level playing field for our students. You Private Schools (Majority of them have their own scales) trying to prove you are tougher academically because you want a 90% to be a Letter Grade of “B = 3.0” are “STUPID.” You are only hurting your students when they apply to college. Every year I ask new 9th grade parents if they came to our school because of the grading scale (No one has yet said yes AND no one has claimed to know the scale prior to my question)? Even worse you tell parents colleges will recalculate your grading scale when they receive the transcript (Unless a college specifically says they will do this they won’t – would you if you get thousands of applications). You can be tough just don't be "STUPID."
So for all you smart educational leaders who think sports people are “dumb jocks” you have it wrong. You are the “stupid assholes.” Why is it from Pee-Wee Football to the NFL Pros the standard for getting a first down is 10 yards? Why is it six points for a touchdown? This is just a simple example of how one sport leads and manages with goals and standards. Yes, I realize there are some differences between high school, college and pros but they are standard in scoring and measuring at each level.
There is no reason why for the good of all that we cannot establish similar rules and standards in education. If Sports were run like education we would have 50 Super Bowls, 50 World Series, … because each state would want their own rules and would consider the next state inferior and the federal folks would have their own championships too because there better than all the states combined (So they think) – “STUPID.”

Monday, September 01, 2014

Education, Evaluation and College and Career Readiness

Michigan like many other states is considered losing ground in many areas in learning progress as it relates to our K-12 education system.

 Report that was recently published by the Education trust Midwest (ETM) continuously measures result findings as it relates to Michigan Education.

I am always curious when writers, editorials, educational experts and politicians use words like “Results” and ‘Systems.”

6/16/14 - Everyone keeps talking about Performance and Evaluation Methods for Teachers (I don't agree). Even if someone could come up with a method it would still not work without "Transforming" the educational system in whole. Adding and or Changing measures and numbers to a Broken system will not help the system. The current system was designed and built for the Industrial ERA and it works fine. The problem is we need an educational system for the 21st Century students, teachers, parents and administrators and that we have not done. We must also understand that when we use the word "Transform" that means brand spanking new. Unfortunately, what most people try to do is change the existing system and that is called continual process improvement. And, you only want to do that to a stable system.

“Results” should not be a stand-alone term. They should always be accompanied by “Process Measures” that indicate/predicts what is happening (Good and Bad) throughout (End-to-End) a process/system. Most don’t address/implement process measures. They mostly wait for the results and then write and comment in numerous websites, television shows and newspaper editorials over and over again each time a new educational report or test scores are provided by private groups or a state report.

“Systems” is used as an all-encompassing term that must be defined by the process/system owners. The problem is most owners only know a “Piece” of the system and they concentrate on that piece as it affects them as being the most important part of the system. Here is where the problem starts and continues to play out because the owner (Leader) has no idea what responsibility comes with being an owner (This cannot be delegated to a manger, supervisor or administrator). See my write-up on -

When I write about the “Piece” it can take many forms but what must be remembered is a system is made up of many pieces that must be interdependent to serve its purpose. See - and -

 I truly believe the conventional wisdom thinking when it comes to the education system in the United States is Medieval. Let me put it this way; thinking is flawed when people refuse to understand the whole system as it relates to education. Much like the Greek scientist Ptolemy in the 130s AD when he professed the Earth (Piece) was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it (Ha – many people still see themselves this way).

It took over 1400 years for Nicolaus Copernicus the Polish mathematician and astronomer in the 1530s to dispel this thinking and “somewhat” convinced people to realize the Earth was a “Piece” of the whole and to truly make strides in learning this valued concept. Today, many people call this Systems Thinking. 

Many people within the educational system see their (Piece) District, School or Classroom as the most important and best as it relates to their self-interests and then convince others within their realm to believe the same so parents can justify why they pay or send their child to a particular school.

No one defines the whole for College and Career Readiness. Colleges are telling K-12 schools what they expect from graduates (GPA, Test Scores, Admission Requirements, etc.) and many are not listening and the Career Companies are telling colleges/schools what they want (real World learning and Experiences) and many of them are not listening.

How can colleges effectively evaluate incoming students when so many schools (Pieces) establish their own grading scales that measure their students completely different from the school down the street, county or other state? That is why the SAT and ACT Test scores are so important because it is the only ‘Standard’ way of comparing students with measures. Other predictors (Not all schools do this) on the college application like activities, sports, clubs, letters of recommendation and essays also play a part.

Speaking of the non-standard way GPA is calculated I first wrote about this in 2005 If we have to have grades at least develop a fair system for how much effort a student puts in to learning as opposed to an "AVERAGE" which mathematically when used by itself (Should use measure of Central Tendency - Mean, Mode, Median and Range) is worthless. I say this because GPA by itself is a poor means of measuring one’s academic knowledge. In fact, the way a student's GPA is calculated depends on the school he/she attends. Averaging the GPA in my opinion is worthless. Why don't schools assign points per Grade ( A = 4, B =3, C = 2, and D=1). If you want a 5 for Honors or AP classes that is fine. Simply total up the final score 6 As, + 1 B = 27). The more points you have the better. This would also encourage more students to take more classes instead of the minimum in order to graduate. Is a student who takes 5 classes and gets all As (GPA = 4.0, Total 20) doing more than the student who took 7 classes in the example above who would have a GPA of 3.8 under the current way of calculating GPA (27/7). See-

Within in many schools where you have more than one teacher instructing the same subject (i.e., Algebra) have different means of measuring/grading how they evaluate their students. Some teachers give A’s like candy while other teachers are so hard you must give your right arm and left leg to get a C.
Thoughts I Keep Pondering (Updated 9/1/14)…
1)      First Updated 6/5/14 - Why so many “Punitive (Win/Lose)” consequences when it comes to education? In order to truly learn we must make mistakes and learn how to correct them in order to learn. We should be encouraging this behavior but instead we label students with grades like below average or failure. We encourage false learning by increasing our “Understanding (Not Learning) of subject matter by adding value (Repeatability) to things that we already know because of the positive feedback reward systems in place. Why do so many students hate Math/ because it is concrete with answers that either right or wrong. If I’m good at math I will continue my understanding. If I’m wrong I get criticized and feel failure and will continuously shy away because every wrong answer or mistake is looked at as a negative and not as an opportunity for learning. I’m convinced our education system is committed to teaching, but not to learning (There is a difference). Why do I say this? The reason is what I mostly learned in the classrooms over my years I have forgotten. Rote teaching (Memorization technique based on repetition) is not learning. Real learning comes from someone imparting their knowledge and wisdom through experiences and applications.
2)      Why do we not have different means/modes/instruments of learning? Too much emphasis is for everyone to learn in the same manner and speed. The problem is there have never been two people alike since the beginning of time.
3)      We continually measure what we have learned through the use of grades and grading scales. How come we don’t measure how much a person has the ability to learn and then develop means by which to gauge it through on-going improvement plans (Grade-by-Grade) established for that person?
4)      Why don’t more teachers embrace the Internet Age? Students today have a tremendous amount of resources and tools to have information and data at their fingertips in nanoseconds. There is no teacher today that can store and compete with all the available information. So instead of fighting and fearing this technology by not allowing computers, calculators, iPads, etc. you are restricting learning. Your survival as a teacher demands you understand this reasoning. Teachers need to make sure students are using these available resources and tools in the right and correct manner to ensure learning takes place. The “Real” Working World encourages individual workers and teams to use all available resources just as long as they know how to use them to work on their assignments.
5)      Why do we test and label our children at such early stages in their learning? Finland, who is considered to have the best education system in the world do not administer mandatory tests or exams until students are 16 years of age. In my opinion, this allows students to experience many things and situations helping them find what they are at good at without labeling at a young age thus inhibiting curiosity and growth. I can even agree to early testing if associated improvement plans are in place as I stated in number 3 above.
6)      I learned many years ago when conducting Root Cause Analysis on problems inherent within a process/system that some were so complex that it would take weeks, months and in some case years to resolve the issues. One day I decided to design with the  help of subject matter experts (In education this would include students) what would be the proper/best corrected way to do the work and then standardize it for all to measure and continually monitor through process measures to make sure the results did not vary from the expected requirements. This method was so much quicker and effective. Why do we take so much time to try and correct the unknowable?  The major obstacle was getting process workers to change the way they did their jobs. I finally had to tell them doing the wrong thing correctly is wrong! And, you don’t have to change; your survival is optional (Taken from Dr. Deming). I believe this is what Albert Einstein meant when he said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when creating them.”
7)      I realize some jobs require people to have to have different bosses throughout the day. Did you ever stop and think how many different bosses (Teachers, Administrators, and Parents) students have each hour of the day? They all have different set of rules, requirements, orders and evaluation methods on declaring what is right and what is wrong. Am I the only one who thinks this is not the best way for our children to learn? No wonder why I am often considered a rebel always questioning and challenging the status quo. Yes, some order is required but by so many conflicting views all thinking their (Piece) is right.
8)      College and Career Readiness continue to be buzzwords for today. K-12 education should be preparing students for College/School and Colleges/Schools should be preparing students for careers. I understand this reasoning but not all careers require a 4-year degree. Too much emphasis and credence is given to university degrees and now colleges/schools charge outrageous prices simply because they can. They are exhibiting absolute power and this is destroying our education system. This has, is, and will continue to cause the Demise of the American Educational System. The Student debt (1 trillion and counting) will make the housing bubble look like a burp when it explodes. Our society is driven by the education of our young and too many are being denied access.
9)      Sometimes I question how many courses/classes that are taught in K-12 and college really prepare students for a career. Maybe it’s not the type of classes but how much is enough. Does 12 years of History or Science, etc. prepare students for a career or just a well-rounded citizen? Does 2 years of a Foreign Language in high school allow a person to master a language? I believe the bigger issue is the amount of people who have personal monetary stakes (Pieces – like books, training material, etc.) in the educational system and will never let go of explaining the purpose of their efforts. We have moved beyond the Industrial Age but our educational system in many ways is still entrenched in the Agricultural Era (i.e., Length of School, Types of Classes). We are afraid of making mistakes (Yet this is how we learn) and of change (This is how we get better). So as I see it the “Bigger” mistake is to do nothing or to remain the same with simple solutions (Disguised as Change).
10)  Transformation of the ‘Whole” system is required. We can no longer do incremental or partial changes and expect quality results. We cannot afford to lose another generation of students to mediocrity or failing. Continuing to do the same things we already know is not learning. At best, we can only add limited value to our current understanding. In order to learn we must experience and do things that requires changes accompanied by mistakes and errors. But that is OK. That is how we learn and set quality change in motion.
11) I believe some Charter Schools have been created to truly try and transform in to a new student driven school that is needed for the 21st Century Student. The problem is the so-called standards and changes that are in place and the new ones that keep coming drive a horizontal/parallel change that keeps the school in tune with the current public and private school education system. There all on the same path and going in same direction just a different highway that runs the same way.
12) 7/4/14 - In my own state of Michigan good people continue to want a better education system but they keep doing the "Wrong Thing," Right! They keep trying to change a broken system by blaming people and politics. They want change on their terms but will not accept the fact the change required is Transformation and not spending more money on an outdated system. Trying blame and measure Teacher (Scapegoats) as the measure for success is ludicrous. I understand there are poor teachers but it is the responsibility of Leadership to correct this problem and they must do it fairly and it must be documented with proof of trying to corrective behavior and not punitive as what is being pushed today.
13) 7/4/14 - This would be the ultimate goal for a school system "Develop the Total Student from K-12 by creating a nurturing learning environment from K-12 so that when our student’s leave our school they still have the yearning, passion and excitement they entered our school with so many years ago."
14) 9/1/14 - So many opinions on Common Core Standards (CCS). I bet most people don't even know what the standards are or have ever read them. Next time the topic comes up ask the complainers what subjects are covered by the CCS? Just in case you don't know it is Math and English.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Educational Team Leader - Updated 9/14/14

Team Leaders are not just for the business community. Developing Team Leaders for education and especially at the K - 12 levels is a chance for administrators, principals and staff to get "actively" involved within their schools.

I will provide more write-ups and examples as they are developed.

I would like to first start with the Educational Team Leader Characteristics:

The Graphic below depicts the different Roles that a Team Leader may encounter when working with teams and planning for change. Many of the Roles may overlap but that is to be expected.

Following the Graphic each Role is expanded to include the Responsibilities, Percentage of time and some tools and processes to help a Team Leader be successful.

Click on PIC to Enlarge

Role Model – Serve as Role Model for teachers and students by demonstrating the desired behavior of a trusted and responsible representative of your school(s).

Ø  Gains support from and confidence of others
Ø  Listens and collaborates effectively
Ø  Takes accountability and Risk (if they go bad, serve/protect your people)
Ø  Provides constructive feedback to teachers
Ø  Builds servant leadership relationships with teachers
Ø  Inspires and motivates
Ø  Communicates openly, early and often - build commitment face to face
Ø  Provides clear direction  - clarifies roles and responsibilities
Ø  Replicates the model way for your team - shows others by example:  i.e., walk the talk to build credibility and trust
Ø  Creates opportunities for teachers - rewards and recognizes them - plans for fun to help boost morale
AND - Leaders take Responsibility and give Credit to others

Updated 9/14/14

Coach - Educate teachers and help them develop their plans; by enlightening, enabling, empowering, executing and knowing when to encourage the positive and prevent the negative.

ENVISION – It is my job to relate/communicate to you the corporate, departmental, etc… objectives into a meaningful AIM or purpose for us to follow.

Caution: If the vision cannot be described in a short amount of time (i.e., 15 minutes or less) then you have not thoroughly planned, measured and communicated a vision that will be successful. If you force the change it may happen but it will not be manageable or sustainable.

ENLIGHTEN (Pre-requisite to Enablement) – This is where we as a Team create an awareness, understanding and sense of urgency as to what is expected of us to meet the objectives.

Caution: If your audience is not excited or at least interested in a short amount of time (i.e., 15 minutes or less) then you may be in for a very tough time in implementing valued change. If the top echelon of leaders do not believe and equally importantly communicate and actively live out the proposed changes nothing will take place.

ENABLE (Pre-requisite to Empower) – Provide the tools, training and education to do the job in order to meet the objectives.

Caution: If you do not seek, serve and gather input from your people that are to do the work and manage the change you have done nothing other that was has been done time and time again and that is create fear, mistrust and non-value added change.

EMPOWER (Pre-requisite to Encourage) – Based on previous EEEs, provide by which we are to operate with each function/process of our work.

Caution: If the culture/environment has not been prepared/nurtured for change it will be short-lived and will not take hold. Effective leaders are sensitive to the challenges facing workers in a changing environment. Not empowering them with the authority, skills and tools to make change happen then you are doomed for another failed attempt for an efficient and effective change. Also, if you do not allow obstacles (That means people too) to be removed from preventing the change you failed as a leader.

EXECUTE (Pre-requisite to Empower) - Based on previous EEEEs, provide the methods and procedures (As developed by all stakeholders) by which we are to operate with each function/process of our work.

Caution: If you do not establish process and quality measures that can identify errors/mistakes then learning and growth will not take place. True learning and change must come through testing and correcting mistakes for improvement. If "Fear of Failure" is evident then people will provide you with false readings and numbers that will eventually leave the change effort in a tampered and damaged state.

ENCOURAGE - Recognize and nurture behaviors for on-going improvements and culture change. Each of us has the responsibility to recognize and praise the good work done by others.

Caution: If you do not celebrate short-wins along the implementation route then long-term change will not take place. Praise and encouragement that is delegated is worthless. Go to where the learning is being done. Be an “Active” Participant and Leader.

Transformer - Being Developed

Friday, July 25, 2014

Where did all the Quality go?

Is it just me or is no one understanding the importance of Quality and most importantly Customer Service? The past months have seen more recalls on cars than I can ever remember. General Motors (GM) needs to pull out their old Dr. Deming four day seminars and review what it means to be a Quality company.

It's just not GM. Chrysler, Ford (8/14/14 - I just got a Recall on my new Edge)  and the once Quality driven Japanese (Deming Award) car companies are also riddled with poor Quality and recalls.

The United States Government is riddled in Cost of Poor Quality - According to a new report, the U.S. government paid $106 billion in payments in error last year. These included Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid Benefits, unemployment and tax refunds. The Department of Agriculture’s school breakfast program which provides meals to needy children had the highest error rate last year of 25 percent. This is unexeptable. These departments think they have absolute power (Especially IRS) and spend what they want, when they want with no one caring about checks and balances.

Just this week I had three conversations about poor customer service at various schools and colleges in three different states. One school was a college in Ohio, another a private school K-12 in Michigan and another a public high school in South Carolina. When will organizations learn that the hiring process is the most important and customer facing employees (i.e., Secretaries, Administrator Clerks, Admissions Reps, Customer Reps, etc...) the first ones to create a lasting partnership or send people to the exists.

Recently had dinner at Bob Evans - Took 15 minutes for waitress to take order, Cook Dropped Waffle had to re-cook, Gave me a free cookie!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Shit Can the High School Graduation Party

Re-Post 6/12/14 - It's that time of year again...

I had a lot of time to think this past weekend since I drove to Indianapolis on Friday and returned on Saturday night. Ten hours driving alone in my car listening to talk shows in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana as I drove through these states. While most of the talk pertained to local affairs one thread that was in each state was the shape of our education system from K-16.

I also thought about all the high school graduation parties I have went to over the years, and how this year there are more than a few to attend. However, one of the party's I will be attending is not for the best student in high school but she is one of the brightest. She did enough to just get by in high school and was more caught up in the drama of school and sports and never realized it was a stepping stone to college and a career.

I believe her problem was she just needed to realize the working world requires much more than a high school diploma. Almost every student with caring parents will get their child through high school, but in order to make it through college, one needs fortitude, perseverance, a purpose and money. If it’s the student's own money, you really get a jolt of reality as to what it means to graduate with a degree from a college or certification in a vocational field.

I know this person will find a profession she likes and one she will make a difference in the lives of others as well as herself. While college at times will be a struggle she will enjoy most of her classes and teachers.

High School graduation parties are about money; college graduation parties are about accomplishments.
I have said it before and I will continue to say we need Pre-K-16 (Grade 14 for trade or vocational school) education. The paradigm must change; unfortunately the barriers continue to be some politicians and some state school education administrators. Think of the children and do something right for a changequalityg says…


When will parents and decision makers wake up to the fact that education is a life-long journey and it is the foundation and pre-requisite to becoming a competent citizen for a moral conscience society. We can no longer just allow kids to out of high school with society and corporations now fitting the bill for those who did not master the basic skills in high school. In the long run the state will save money with a better educated work force, less unemployment, more small businesses will open, more corporations will do business here, and less dollar drain on the overall population.

No more diplomas after high school, just a seal of competence and a congratulatory note praising you for reaching an important milestone in your life. Yes, I know there will always be students who drop out, yes there will always be minimum paid jobs and yes this is not a cure all. But I do know this, we are in a “Global” competitive marketplace and those that sit back and whine (would you like some cheeze with that whine) and not control their own destiny will be left behind, you have a choice, get off the can.