Posts Tagged paradigms

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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Changing Paradigms and Getting It Right…

This explanatory video discusses ADHD and a variety of topics, but more importantly, it’s a valuable call to action against a different perspective on the needed reforms that should be taking place around the world. While I value that he has only touched on a few key topics, the references to globalization are critical to understand the complex dynamics in play. We dare not ignore the insidiously embedded nature of predispositions that have been layered upon us. Schools have effectively trained themselves into complacency and conformity over decades. Any change effort is fraught with challenge and acrimony when it confronts these well established myths of how learning should take place.

My take on the key points:

  1. We must attack this issue globally.
  2. We must dispel the grouping and packing of students. Remove the assembly line mentality to achieve the greatest gains.
  3. We have to abandon all attempts to create a perfect system to meet all needs. While I value that the business leaders want these systems to control costs, the reality is we need to spend less on obsolete materials and methods and move these resources to meeting the needs of the moment. Let’s capture the uniqueness of individuals and build responsive systems that are messy and less defined – let collaboration emerge as our primary response mechanism. (BTW – this will get rid of the teachers who want to plan really well in their first year and then repeat it 29 times until they retire.)
  4. Let’s focus our energies on truly accepting and understanding the concept of motivation and stop our practice of brainwashing children to accept carrot & stick as a way of life.

I’m sure there is more here that others would think worthy of equal emphasis. What do you think?

One reflection: Have you noticed how the successful “pockets” of innovation seem to first isolate themselves from interaction before they go public with their achievements? Look at the Harlem Children’s Zone as an example. The work there was isolated and tied to one innovator. He sold it selectively and built it as a distinct departure from the paradigms. After it achieved success, he trumpeted it and reigned in the additional resources to meet the needs of each successive generation. We see many of these “pockets of excellence” emerging everywhere. I say, let the diversity reign and let’s allow these pockets to multiply geometrically and meet the needs of the next generation of learners. Competition is dead. Long live divine inspiration and dedicated, purpose-driven organizations!!

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Happy First Day Everyone!!

I love the first day of school each year. This year, with dissertation work continuing, I again ushered my own two kids into school, but did not take the reins of a classroom or building. I miss it.

I love the rain beating down on my umbrella while watching buses safely deliver kids to my building.  I love the calls on the hand-held letting me know that Johnny isn’t sure to which classroom he is assigned.  I relish the parent handshakes, the unloading of supplies.  The wide-eyed enthusiasm is part of my biological clock and it refreshes me with each iteration of the cycle.  Like the children in this video, I’m floating toward the heavens in awe of the mystery that is yet to emerge.

May you all have a wonderful “blast off” whether you have started or will soon do so.  May this year be an exciting one where you accomplish all that you seek for yourself and for the children in your charge.

Dr. Kirpal Singh (Singapore Management University) laments in a movie featured at 21Foundation that we are focusing on preparing kids for today or yesterday, but that very few of us are preparing kids for tomorrow.  That needs to be our focus and we should recommit to reaching out further than we can comprehend to address the needs of these citizens of a new millennium.

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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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Motivation – Again!?!?

Seems like the week to discuss motivation and as I consider various links and tracebacks, I’m found bringing together some ideas into a new framework of understanding many things I have written before and will likely ponder in the future.  This video brings this thinking to specific relief.

We have discussed previously how setting our sights on common denominators (e.g. high stakes tests, common core curriculum, etc.) seems somehow counter-intuitive.  Additionally, many others have offered insight into the dangers of these practices.  Any other approach seems just too challenging to discuss in the midst of political wrangling, decaying facilities, and budgetary degradation.  We seek the average because we have lost the incentive to reach for something that often seems beyond our grasp.  We have lost the pioneering spirit.

In this video from 1972, legendary psychiatrist Viktor Frankl offers an important message about our motivations and our expectations for each other.

Whether we are talking about advances in science, travels to Mars, or the development of new curriculum, this simple video may be the piece that helps us all get past our limitations and our struggle with mediocrity.

We must find a way to seek for children more than our perceptions of their limitations.  We have to provide for the true and honest development of their pioneering spirit.  As the video declares, we must seek point far “north” of mediocrity and find our destination somewhere between average and eminently closer to excellent.

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Granularity

While deeply involved in Marzanno and Waters (2009), I had the opportunity recently to attend a recent high school orchestra concert. It is, thus, logical to reflect on instructional leadership as similar to the experience of developing a musical harmony that mingles concepts from Marzanno and others such that we have a cohesive, but responsive approach to student achievement. While many would assume that a musical composition is static in nature, it is in fact a highly dynamic endeavor that yields different results when factors of acoustics, instruments, expertise, and the emotions behind the score spread and mix upon the stage. In this most recent concert, graduating seniors and year-end farewells set the stage for an once-in-a-lifetime version of a particularly complicated flute solo that was masterfully presented as a farewell tribute to the conductor and teacher.  Much like an orchestral piece of music, the notes and staff only told a very course version of the story behind the music. The instrumental process that yields note dynamics, breath control, posture, precision (or lack thereof), and a weaving of expertise results in a performance – an experience.

In much the same way, our current approach to achievement is more about looking at the music rather than reflecting on the elements of the performance. This emerges from an issue of granularity. When we look at a large boulder, we see the surface and get general information regarding the face of the boulder and maybe some insight into the color, texture, and weight of the object. Summative testing is akin to this global view where we derive scores and assess program by examining the accomplishment of large groups of students. What we don’t see, and teachers often reflect on this, is the material just below the surface. If we begin by breaking the boulder into smaller and smaller pieces, we reveal the details of the musical composition – the subtleties, the nuances, the complexity.  Ultimately, when we arrive at grains of sand, we have a very complete picture of the boulder – even though it is a boulder no longer.

Formative testing is largely about breaking the boulder of education into grains of accomplishment and by looking with this level of scrutiny, we greatly improve our chance of impacting performance in a positive way. The key is achieving a high degree of granularity while not distracting from our primary task of achieving broad spectrum learning goals. Formative assessment meets this criterion and provides an instructional strategy that not only focuses teachers on viable instructional objectives, but also informs both students and teachers about their progress toward accomplishing the same.  The musical score transcends the subtleties of the dynamic factors of performance by forming the foundation of the presentation. In this way, we have a metaphor for the core structures that Marzano and Waters (2009) propose in the form of nonnegotiable goals. Their reflections on the inadequacy of NCLB and other summative high stakes measures gives way to a formative system of measures aimed at developing a “value added” approach. This is consistent with multiple recent research endeavors including Hatie’s (2009), where formative feedback to teachers regarding their efforts with students yielded the 3rd highest effect rating on overall achievement – approximately d=0.90.

The challenge is not about curriculum, while it is valuable to continue curricular development processes as we currently do. The issue is the creation of common formative assessments that match the curriculum and provide for close scrutiny of granular accomplishment. With Marzano and Waters (2009), we find a proposal for a “value added” approach to education that calls for both horizontal and vertical alignment with a common scale of measurement for formative assessment tools used along the way. Arranged according to topic areas and grade levels, this proposal leads to a comprehensive look at how a curriculum should emerge in the classroom, the way in which we test pre-operationally for its introduction, and the way in which we report developmental progress along a scale toward achievement of that curriculum.

But they may not be going quite far enough in addressing the thousands of small bits that constitute a comprehensive child-centered approach to personal development that also addresses the development of character and emotional intelligence.  Education continues to stare at the boulder and misses this aspect under the surface.  A value added approach may also miss many of the grains of sand by sifting and looking only for the specs of interest.

If we really want to form sand castles, we need to address how all of the sand can be cemented together into the complex structure that is a whole “person.”  While I value assessment as important, it does little to address the complex nature of a child and the nuances of how the the score becomes a performance.


References

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

Marzano, R. J., & Waters, T. (2009). District leadership that works: Striking the right balance. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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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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Motivation & Daniel Pink

It seems fortuitous that I wrote last night on Mike Rowe and then found Daniel Pink shortly after to reflect on the nature of motivation.  These are two very nice videos back-to-back and tell us much about the new age of work and accomplishment.  Similar to the theories (dare I say facts) presented by Pink, I’m writing this instead of the paper that is due in my doctoral class – my incentive, “grade” based class where I do work for the carrot of a piece of paper that somehow distinguishes me from everyone else – hogwash!

In reality, much of what Pink describes is true for me – I select projects where I can be creative and add to the base of knowledge rather than looking for the position with the greatest pay potential.  Performance has always been a motivator and I read about Google’s 20% only to say “Yeah!” and “Right On!!” and “That Makes Sense!!!”

The fact that we have had it wrong for so long is what amazes me.  In schools especially, we seem all too caught up in a Pavlovian reality and stretching to a different kind of conceptual framework seems unreachable.  Could it be that our most difficult students are trying to tell us something that has nothing to do with their “condition?”  Maybe we have so tightly closed the lid on our children that they have no choice but to move constantly amongst realities – one after another in quick succession – to the point that we no longer understand them because of their divergence from our norms.

Pink may have the new age of motivation in his pocket, and his dialog on the topic has inspired some divergent thinking at the very least.

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Anagnorisis & Peripeteia

This week I had an opportunity to read scholarship submissions at Wilson High School for the vocational education program.  On the table was two years full tuition and books for a vocational path of your choice (primarily encouraging state colleges and vocational schools).  Of interest was the fact that I had the honor of sitting across the table from past Washington Senator Joe Stortini, currently restaurateur of some notoriety from Joeseppi’s Italian Ristorante on North Pearl in Tacoma.   Our cordial discussion and history walk was enthusiastic and energizing.  Joe was key to early educational legislation including the many tweaks to collective bargaining and implementation of constitutional mandates to fund basic education.  Between 1969 and 1977 he sponsored or co-sponsored many bills during a complicated time that included the emergence of many of the foundations that are being debated today during less comfortable economic times.

But, our discussion turned to the programs in Tacoma to encourage the options for kids beyond the typical college bound mentality that often dominates the conversation in many circles.  This is understandable in an environment focused on test scores, standards and a desire to assure that 100% of our children are prepared for post-secondary education.  What Joe and I talked about was the reality that many kids need another path – whether in the arts, or metalworking, or the culinary arts – they need a path for success that doesn’t label them a failure if they can’t get into a “acceptable” college.  The video below confirms this notion, although you will need patience to get through the dialog to reach the conclusions at the end.  But, the anagnorisis of this is clear when you consider Mike Rowe’s insight into “Dirty Jobs.”

I like that he points out we are “at war” with the notion of work.  It is clearly true that we are in the process of creating ever new generations of complacency where we have been taught that work is bad and following your passion means finding the “get rich quick scheme” that will fuel an early retirement.

Mike has introduced me to my peripeteia.  How about you?

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Motivation 101

A thought on why broad education reform is lingering despite selective successes…

In looking at organizational behavior, there is one theory of motivation that may apply to the current scenario in regards to the willingness of teachers to embrace necessary change. Equity Theory provides a basis for thinking about motivation that goes something like this:

The equity theory of work motivation was developed in the 1960s by J. Stacy Adams (equity means “fairness”). Equity theory is based on the premise that an employee perceives the  relationship between the outcomes — what the employee gets from a job and organization — and his or her inputs—what the employee contributes to the job and organization…. According to equity theory, however, it is not the objective level of outcomes and inputs that is important in determining work motivation. What is important to motivation is the way an employee perceives his or her outcome/input ratio compared to the outcome/input ratio of another person. (George & Jones, 2008)

What’s interesting about this is the “referent” or other person that is used as the comparison.  In the last decade, there has been a movement to compare teachers at a professional level to other white collar careers, and rightfully so.  Education is clearly a highly valued profession in the truest sense and many aspire to the profession out of desire to service and more intrinsic motivation.

But, when I talk to teachers, there is a terrible disconnect between the two factors described above.  There is a huge demand for excellent inputs with little potential for commensurate outcomes that would ever be considered consistent with doctors or lawyers.

So, does that mean we have to raise pay exponentially and provide incentive based rewards? Nope – not necessarily!  In fact, additional pay may not be a motivator if all other factors of work conditions remain the same.  If children have increasing needs and if demands associated with the job continue to escalate, pay and other extrinsic incentives will have little impact on overcoming the significant disparity between needed work (and there’s lots of it) and the slim possibility of rewards in a system that never seems to be “fixed.”

At the core of expectancy theory is a need for people to believe that they can achieve the expected performance level.  Have we given teachers any degree of belief that they can achieve the targeted performance?  Many reports have been published on the problems with the American education system.  Have many been published on the quality of the system?  Do teachers feel like their goals can be achieved if they go from one evaluation to the next thinking they are doing the right thing only to find that their evaluations and performance demands change in any given year without additional possibility of remuneration?

In 1993, the Washington State Legislature enacted HB 1209 school reform.  There were three steps:

  1. establish high standards and assessments
  2. provide districts with additional flexibility and resources
  3. hold districts and schools accountable for student achievement

Steps 1 and 3 have been accomplished, although accountability still seems a wavering target.  But step 2 has not been fully addressed at either constitutional nor budget level.  Thus, it is clear that a disconnect still exists between desired program change and a willingness to address the associated costs for resources and staff motivation towards these changes.

It’s easy to understand why changes in the profession of teaching are hard-fought in an era of increasing complacency.  With nothing but criticism often greeting them at the doors of their classrooms, teachers are the most difficult group to address when considering motivational strategies.  Setting standards is only one part of the puzzle.  Giving teachers a sense that a new order is not only achievable, but desirable, is the real challenge of leaders and policy makers.

References

George, J., & Jones, G. R. (2008). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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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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Update to Microsoft Surface…

I stand corrected. It looks like Smart Tech (www.smarttech.com) has got one in the works. Would love to know how implementation is going. Anyone?

Click here – The SMART Table

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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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Students reflecting on learning…

This is a piece from Dr. Marilyn Simpson’s work on learning targets and students articulating their learning.

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Amazing song – We need teachers to learn…

A wonderful song for reflection as vision and mission statements are reviewed and re-thought.

Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io

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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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