Teach them efficiently.
Reach every child individually (all 60+ in your classroom).
Improve test scores.
Require effective instruction.
Settle for ineffective instruction.
Hire creative, innovative, talented teachers.
Fire/lay off those talented (newly hired) teachers.
What the heck is happening to education?
Why so much disconnect????
As I finish my 17th year in Education, here’s how I see it.....
The conflicting WHAT of our Educational System:
20th Century 21st Century
Cogs/Widgets Business Creativity/CollaborationStandardization Communication/Innovation
PEOPLE: Education PERFORMANCE:
Though Education has become more like Business in recent decades and admittedly some teachers just go through the motions (cogs) and some students prefer to blend in anonymously (we'll call them 'good widgets'), I want to be clear:
Teachers are not cogs,
students are not widgets,
and schools should not be factories.
To be sure, Education has incorporated many business practices in its evolution:
§ Guidance through Leadership and Management (not the same)
§ Bottom Lines
§ Customer Service
§ The need for Excellence (thank you, Tom Peters!) and results
However, it seems to me when you compare the evolution of Education and Business, an interesting trend can be seen:
In the early 20th Century, Business was about Performance: cogs, widgets, standardization, while Education was synonmous with People: learning and community.
As we moved into the 21st Century, however, Business began placing greater emphasis on People: creativity, collaboration, community, and innovation, to increase bottom lines, while Education seems to have moved away from People in an effort to maximize Performance: the use of ubiquitous data to increase bottom lines while creating environments that nurture cogs, widgets, and standardization, in effect creating superficial learning at the expense of real, purposeful learning.
Is it just me or are we a little off-track
in Education in the U.S.????
Don’t me wrong. As a former reading instructor, I’m all about data and performance. I was always thrilled to see my students (middle school through college level) make significant gains and pass required tests, but I was equally thrilled about what was happening in the affective domain: students developed an interest in lifelong learning and critical thinking.
The same is often seen in fellow educators when
they we engage in meaningful professional development that nurtures curiosity, respects individuality, and builds in fun. (Yes! *fist pump in the air*)
Education has historically been an institution about people and learning. Now, the push for performance appears to be at the expense of people and real learning.
Have we lost our focus?
As policy makers and politicians respond to economic conditions each year, Education is caught in the cross fire, addressed reactively with sweeping cuts, at the expense of its stakeholders ~ which leads to being perpetually stuck in the HOW and WHY of public education:
§ How do we improve the current conditions?
§ Why do we keep seeing the same issues year after year?
We (all stakeholders, including policy makers, politicians, business owners, educators, and even our country's Presidents) never seem completely certain about how to devise the winning formula that marries competitive (and meaningful) student performance, communities of valued professionals, cutting-edge instruction that engages all learners, and creative thinking that moves us to the forefront of innovation, so we grasp at straws, make short-sighted decisions, and diminish the opportunity for genuine learning and growth.
This can be seen in several ways:
§ constantly-changing initiatives (even as I write this post, e-mails are coming in with the latest ideas to ‘implement a new way of doing …’ in an effort to fix the current issues)
§ stagnant test scores that cause people to scratch their heads and throw more money at programs and quick fixes (which often don’t fix)
§ conflicting viewpoints or misinformation resulting in premature or inappropriate cuts that don’t allow us to see growth over time (my current division, Career and Technical Education is case in point)
So WHY is our educational system so stuck?
A few thoughts ….
The way we DO education in the United States:
§ is mostly outdated in its structure and format
§ protects ineffective employees through seniority/tenure and unions who cry foul at the first sign of 'injustice'
§ accepts mediocrity and compensates with annual raises (usually….. salaries have been frozen in recent years for many of us)
§ is at the mercy of policy makers, politicians, and the economy
§ is often misguided by people who possess theoretical knowledge, but lack classroom experience
§ historically compensates lower than other professions that require advanced degrees, credentialing, licensure, and professional development
§ doesn’t recognize talent and skill to the extent it could (and I'm not talking merit pay, here)
§ is often slow to identify and utilize new technologies effectively
§ often wastes money (underutilized equipment, job protection, facilities, paying $$$ insurance costs for unhealthy employees)
§ provides LOTS of lip service
§ is at once: exhausting, inefficient, unbalanced, and often just plain boring
How do we fix a system that continues to appear broken while addressing the needs of all stakeholders?
I believe ....
§ change agents willing to take on the status quo in spite of pushback are instrumental in long-lasting and needed change
§ recognizing generational differences and using that knowledge can support changing paradigms
§ eliminating ineffective employees (teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, staff) is absolutely vital to improving operational efficiency and instructional quality and sustainability
§ building professional communities where people feel safe and valued is necessary to develop and nurture open, honest dialogue that promotes instructional curiosity, growth, and effectiveness
§ nurturing professional growth and lifelong learning as part of every district’s culture is should be essential and organic
§ partnering with Business to provide skilled and creative employees in exchange for support that enables cutting-edge learning ~ for students and teachers ~ builds sustainability
§ studying today’s most successful businesses (large and small) would provide direction in implementing strategies that lead to greater productivity
§ educators taking ownership of their professional growth and role in education will not only create awesome role models for students, but also develop instructional leaders with passion and commitment
§ eliminating the cog and widget approach in favor of an efficient system that (1) addresses quality and quantity by using data effectively and transparently, (2)develops budgets that proactively support education using all sources, including industry, (3) builds communities of learners (students and educators alike) that allows for open, honest diaglogue without fear of reproach, and (4) requires creativity, collaboration, and innovation from all stakeholders
Some would argue that we’re already using data effectively/transparently, creating budgets, and building communities of learners.
Really? Then why aren’t things changing?
Our focus needs to be on People
High Quality. High Expectations. High Value. High Reward.
Our focus needs to be on Tools
Create. Collaborate. Communicate.
It’s what the world is doing.
Why shouldn’t learners (students and teachers)?
We can’t be afraid to use emerging technologies…
Our students do.
Initiators and Influencers can make all the difference!
Our focus needs to be on What Matters
What do we really need to know in the 21st Century?
What will help develop our students into productive citizens –
in the neighborhood and in the world?
Mr. President and Stakeholders, respectfully, we are neither cogs nor widgets. Our schools should not be factories. Our students' parents want the best education for their children.
We are a nation of creativity, innovation, and work ethic. Our values sometimes feel a bit confused, but truth is, we
can must develop global contributors and we need to get the HOW and WHY figured out .... now.
Let’s start something.
Let’s create change.
Let’s rewrite the way we DO Education in the United States.
NOTE: While working on this post, I serendipitously found connections along the way that showed me that the idea of eliminating 'school factories,' moving forward in the 21st century [a post by math teacher, Bill Jackson, over at the blog, The Daily Riff], and being indispensable while avoiding the 'cog concept' [link to Seth Godin's Linchpin] is much bigger than this Florida educator…
ADDED NOTE: Thank you to the folks who've sent me e-mail regarding this post..... I understand your desire for anonymity. Yes, we are seeing some change to the current system, however, much continues to be in response (once again) to economic changes and political decision makers. Will the tides turn again at the next round of elections?? Here in Florida, we're facing a proposed 10% cut in Education (a little over 3 billion dollars... yes, with a B). We need to be talking about long-term, systemic change that is proactive and values all stakeholders!
Are you ready?
Let's start something.
You can find me here.