Friday, October 12, 2012
I have shared before, that in my district we are "systems thinkers". As such, we follow a problem solving model - IDEAS (*PEG, LLC). Identify the problem, Determine the root cause, explore possible solutions, assess the results, standardize the improvement.
Recently, the NJ Department of Education has set out on a new quest. They are determined to shift from a compliance mindset to one of support, so they say. While I do not question their intentions, these are good people who are up against a monumental task- educating every student to the same standard. I've written extensively about my vexation with that so I will spare you here. Despite their intentions, what follows is still compliance oriented.
For example, under the new RAC's or Regional Achievement Centers, designed to help the neediest districts (*based on NJASK scores), RAC states that all Priority Schools must make several new positions. One is a "Data Specialist". Without following any model of problem solving that I'm familiar with, they determined if you are a Priority School - meaning your students did not all pass the NJASK at the level they deemed appropriate, you must have a data management problem. They have not presented any data that supports that my district needs a data specialist, actually the RAC Director has applauded us for our systems approach; nonetheless we are told to hire a 'Data Specialist' for that school. Where's the process here? They identified a problem, students are not proficient, but they have missed the root cause analysis piece where they search for the cause of the problem and leaped to standardizing by mandating that we must hire a data specialist. Their model would be IS instead of IDEAS.
Just think if NASA solved problems this way...Houston we have a booster problem, ok, hire a data person...
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Standing at the Lincoln Memorial, I was moved to think about what life might have been like for President Lincoln. I wondered, how did he handle the pressures of leadership? Specifically, I wondered if he had people saying, "come on Mr. President, we have always done it this way, why change it?" Perhaps the "it" was slavery. Can you imagine his emotions knowing something so deeply in his heart, "that people should never be owned" and then having others try to convince him that he was wrong?
I admire that he led our divided Nation through the conflict and Civil War in order to have a more unified Nation today. I draw strength from history - my belief that education must be un-standardized and instead it should be customized to include much more than just the tested subjects is not going away. Everyday, it actually grows! It is absurd to believe we can put every student into a 'mold'.
We must decide in our hearts that a child's achievement level cannot be measured during one week out of the year in a test that is largely 'fill in the bubble'. We must be strong in our quest to change the policies that are designed otherwise. Student achievement is not something that should be measured to determine the value of the child, the teacher, the school or the district but rather student achievement should be nurtured in accordance with the child's passions and gifts. The 'test' of his/her success will come later in whether they can live a fulfilled life.