Thursday, November 12, 2009

Educations number one enemy --> COMFORT

I attended a two day conference last week that provided a vast amount of speakers and information on current educational issues.

Each day had a keynote speaker who spoke about transforming and reforming our current educational system.

Both speakers were very entertaining and provided example after example of the demise of our educational system.

Both speakers represented their own consulting company.

The audience applauded and laughed as the speakers presented their findings and solutions to many of the probable symptoms in the educational system. At one point I wondered how many teachers and administrators in the large hall where I sat were laughing at themselves or at their peers when examples of poor teaching and leadership were given. Somehow I thought we should be crying and ashamed of ourselves.

I was glad each speaker mentioned the word “system” in their talk and in their handouts. System is a key word when it comes to transforming (to change in composition or structure b: to change the outward form or appearance of) or designing a system with built in quality assurances.

Please notice I did NOT include the word “Reform” in the above statement. Why? Because Reform (to put or change into an improved form or condition b: to amend or improve by change of form or removal of faults or abuses) is what we currently do and what we have done for the last twenty years.

“School Reform will not do, Transformation is what must happen and it must happen now.” – gmc

Reform focuses on trying to make the existing model work. Transformation is a developing a new and different model with all system players in the development and design stages.

You see many leaders and consultants’ talk and write of transforming the educational system but what they really say and do is reforming the system. Our current educational system has been riding the same rail for over a hundred years and it goes all around with no aim, beginning or end and the engine (Educational & Government Leaders) driving it just keeps adding new approaches (railcars) with no means of knowing what works and what does not because the engine just keeps going on a track of no return.

Transformation is the only answer and it must come from Leadership that is ready to lead and confront the battle of “Comfort.”

Yep, “Comfort” is the enemy. Educators love the comfort of the current system and do not want it to change. Oh, they will tell you we want change but in the end they want it as long as it is someone else who has to change. That is why Technological Reform today causes such a wide gap among teachers. Heck, many still don’t believe in the calculator as being a tool to learn.

Students today have “transformed” in to a new generation of learners and teachers are still trying to “reform” their current lesson plans.

The educational system requires transformation not reform. The two are opposing in meaning. Transformation is a major systems change, while reform is about making small improvements to a part of the existing system that often affects the whole by tampering with the system causing out of control situations.

Reform is a process of improving an existing system. Transformation is a method of designing and developing a new system, culture, process, and structure, and moving the current system to the new.

The only way a transformation can be successful is through leader who is NOT afraid to make decisions and NOT afraid of confronting the status quo. The leader must OWN THE SYSTEM!

After all, is this not the number one reason individual schools do not change very easy? They are lead by good people doing their best by avoiding conflict, looking for comfort and just want a few more years of peace and quiet until they retire.

That is why educators make errors of omission. That is, they make errors by not doing what they should.


In addition to the keynote speakers I attended three sessions on data, assessments and schools labeled as “distinctive.”

Based on my 30 years in business I believe educational leaders are still 10 - 15 years behind organizational learning when it comes to improving systems and using data as a tool.

People with data can do good things.

People with data and have no idea on how to use the data can cause disasters.

School districts love assessments, standardized tests and data from systems that provides inferences on how well they are doing and what labels a student as a good or poor performer.

I’m somewhat OK with that but not when the test is yearly and the assessments are every 3 to 5 years.

I sat in one session where a very high level administrator explained the importance of a standardized test results that will lead you to identifying a students problem areas.

I asked if it would not be better to use the on-going daily observations and testing of the teacher(s) than to rely only on an annual test.

The presenter took my question that I was referring to a student having a bad day when being tested and that a standardized test may not be accurate. – Perhaps!

However, my point is that we must use process (daily, weekly, etc...) measures for improvement and not result (standardized tests, assessments) measures. By the time we figure out the results we have lost the students to poor grades, dropouts and graduation to the next grade level.

People just love fancy printouts that show rows and columns of data every which way. It helps justify the price tag for such measurement systems. Results Data give people a false sense of knowledge and power. People must realize that Process Data is what supplies knowldege because you are working within the system to understand and apply the learnings.

How can one be an educator and not know what a student lacks prior to a standardized test.

We are in deep trouble folks.
Get your butt off the couch (comfort) and do something value added!

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