And Another Thing

As many of you that follow my posts and content uploads are well aware, I am a strong advocate for the use of effective business tools for the administration of education. However, there is at least one big exception…

Of course you can’t manage what you can’t measure, but the current business frenzy to push quarterly and annual numbers higher with no regard to the”long view” is a mistake, both in business and in education. When asked about long term effects of this concentration on short term gains, one CEO actually said that his company’s three-year outlook was very promising. to a strategic planner a three year planning horizon is myopic at best!

Unfortunately, many of my education colleagues have adopted this limited perspective. The importance of this year’s higher test scores overshadows any other contributions that a teacher or their school makes. Perhaps this is a response in part to the criticism leveled at the profession from various sources. Or worse, perhaps the profession itself believes in these measures above all else.

Only the teachers in the “tested” subjects (normally three in elementary and five in secondary) to be found to be effective. Really??? What about the other two-thirds of teachers? And yet it is often these teachers that can make the biggest difference in a student’s future. Could it be that not having a laser focus on improving test scores actually improves teacher quality?

We live in a data-rich environment. Surely we can find better indicators than last year’s test results upon which to gage student and teacher success. What if we only published sports statistics from the year before? How long would the public or the sports professional put up with that? Educators must find and agree upon a few leading, not lagging, indicators that will help us evaluate student (and teacher) progress and publish those alongside the common assessments from the year before.

Recent research indicates that the medical profession finds it very difficult to unlearn legacy practices, even in the face of double-blind placebo-controlled testing. We do not have the luxury of similar blind research in education, but we do find it just as difficult to walk away from our legacy educational practices. It is much easier to believe that if we just worked a little harder or spent a little more time with those who are struggling, that we could be successful. Of course the really short-sighted analysis would conclude that truly great teachers simply wouldn’t have this problem.

The question is given your current methodologies, how many F’s are you turing into A’s? In Helping People Win at Work Ken Blanchard and Garry Ridge build a business philosophy around “Don’t just correct my paper, help me get an A.” The most successful educators are attuned to this as well, applying entirely new practices and completely redesigning old ones.

Just like the doctors who have learned to leave their legacy practice behind and wash their hands, we must also be willing to change how we teach and not to be satisfied with mere incremental “improvements” to this year’s test scores lifting our vision to a wider and farther horizon.

There are successful school districts out there doing this now. It can and should be done.