Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Too Many Cooks Ruin the Soup...

As I posted last week, there are a tremendous number things that are being asked of education today (  The reasons for their implementation vary as much as the initiatives themselves: best for kids, research based best practices, Race to The Top, Publishing & Testing companies, compliance with state and federal mandates, creation of a culture of fear (make people prove they are good), etc.  What I had asked in my post was is it possible to implement them with true fidelity under the current industrial model of education that most of us operate under? 

Thanks to the effects of Hurricane Sandy I had time to catch up on some reading.  I divided my time between two: Shift Ed: A Call to Action for Transforming K-12 Education by David Houle & Jeff Cobb and (while I had the internet) a nice synopsis posted by Mike King of Michael Fullan’s “Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform” ( ).

The following are a few excerpts that resonated within the context of the original question:

“If scarcity creates value, then information in and of itself is rapidly becoming worthless. We must now move beyond information to find real value. For institutions that have largely been purveyors of information-and our schools certainly fall into this camp- making this change rapidly and successfully is fundamental to survival” (Houle & Cobb 41)

“Now that change is environmental, it is essential to not build upon and update the present educational system but to leap ahead into the future and create something of and for the future.” (Houle & Cobb 42)

“Intrinsic motivation, instructional improvement, teamwork, and ‘allness’ are the crucial elements for whole system reform.” (Fullan)

“Effective drivers are those
• that cause whole system improvements;
• that are measurable in practice and results; and
• for which a case can be made that strategy X produces result Y.

An ineffective driver, however, is one that
• actually does not produce the results it seeks;
• may make matters worse; and
• can never have the impact it purports to produce.  (Fullan)

Looking at the list from the original post, many of the individual initiatives/programs/methods/changes have the potential to be effective drivers of reform (although maybe not as systemic as Fullan’s focus).  However, given that there is so much pressure to implement all the items, at the same time, this turns them all into ineffective drivers (With so many variables, how do you know which X produces Y?).  Even worse is the cultural impact of how "change" comes to be viewed.  Instead of being a challenge that is embraced and focused on (intrinsic), change is equated with something to be avoided, or something that can't possibly be done ("Have you seen all the stuff they think we should do?").  The over-saturation of initiatives has poisoned countless meaningful initiatives into being labeled the dreaded “just one more thing”.  Too often, too many changes, too many times, have resulted in us changing nothing.  Ruined soup for all...

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