Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What if?

This interview with Finnish Education Guru, Pasi Sahlberg, is very enlightening and started me asking what if...

Imagine an education system that is not driven by 'high stakes assessment' yet scores at the top of any 'national assessment'...

In Finland, the word accountability does not exist - yet they are very accountable to their students, parents, and country. Instead, they use the word 'responsible' - he explains that each educator is responsible for giving all students equal access to a high quality education. They value discovery, play, and the arts.

I wonder what education in NJ would look like if we did not have the NJASK or HSPA...if we were free to determine what the truly important learning experiences are for our students, and we were free to determine how we will measure success...if we could focus on allowing students more freedom to study topics they find interesting within a given subject, if we focused on asking big questions, if instead of a multiple choice or open response test - students could connect their own passions and interests to efforts to change local and global communities for the better, students could do real work for real audiences for real purposes, if we allowed technology in (and gave all students access), if we valued the connections that can be made through social media outlets and actually taught students how to use these tools for good, what if we valued innovation more than memorization...

What if...we simply could begin a conversation that outlines what we feel is truly important for students to learn rather than simply accepting the Common Core as the answer. Our students' needs and values are changing whether we want to admit it or not. In order to meet these needs, we need to ask big questions like "What is the purpose of schools in an era of abundance?"

I speak with teachers all the time and they would love to explore questions about the future but the overwhelming mandates from the DOE - new evaluation systems, new assessments, common core...extinguishes their excitement. What if we didn't let that happen? What if parents, students, and educators joined together to voice our concerns to the policy making machine? What if we were so loud they had to listen? I read today, that the Texas Legislature voted 145-2 to reduce high stakes testing. TEXAS

Below is a link for a newsletter that my idle Will Richardson is spearheading. Please sign up for the free newsletter and join the conversation.
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Implementation Woes

Seems like it should be simple right? Your wife asks you to get the kids ready for school and drop them off since she isn't feeling well. She handles this task every other day - how hard can it be, right? She made a checklist for me:

1. Breakfast
2. Wash their faces
3. Brush hair and teeth
4. Get them dressed (with the clothes I've laid out for you)
5. Put their bagged lunches from the refrigerator into their lunch-boxes (again, the lunches that I already prepared for you)
6. Get their backpacks (that I have searched, reviewed, signed papers for return for you)
7. Put both kids in their car seats
8. Deploy - take to school A (for David) and school B (for Grace)

All of which should take an hour from start to finish. "Do you think you can handle it, Daddy?" Of course I can, and I will shave off a few minutes from your routine to boot. The night before I was in charge was rough, my wife runs a fever, both kids have trouble sleeping as they both of terrible colds, not to mention my son is due to have his tonsils removed next week as he has chronic swollen glands. None of us slept. The alarm goes off, I drag myself up and begin the check list. Within 20 minutes, I realized I was in big - big trouble. Do I dare wake the Mrs. up and admit defeat, no-way, I plug along trying to pick up speed - I mean how difficult can it be - I know what to do...I know the consequences of being late...

The kids were late to school. My daughter had her pants on backwards (did not notice until I got home and picked her up) - my son was dressed properly, minus his socks (are they important). In the end, I realized something, simply knowing what to do isn't enough.

Implementation in our school improvement efforts is extremely similar. Recently, I was fortunate to travel to Chicago to attend ASCD2013. I presented with colleagues during the conference and got to attend several amazing presentations. One, conducted by Bryan Goodwin, spoke to the problems with implementation. Below I will share his insights:

Five Implementation Fallacies:

1, The truth shall set you free (when people know what to do they'll do it)
2.Talking slower and louder will do it (fear, facts & force will overcome resistance)
3.Shock and Awe (doing more does more)
4.Running before walking (ignore improvement progressions)
5.Focusing on what and not who (ignoring the culture is a huge mistake)

These five fallacies can cripple school improvement efforts. There is a process and method to address these fallacies to drive deep - significant change.

And the secret sauce to success, according to Bryan Goodwin (McRel COO)

Knowing how to embrace the culture, while influencing it to embrace change is key. Thinking back to my nightmare of trying to get my kids ready and off to school, you can ask yourself, "why is my wife so successful?" Mainly because she has done the what often, she has practiced, she has mastered it by putting in her 10,000 hours of work at getting the kids ready. You should see her, its like a magic show, school or organizational change is similar. We need to not only communicate the what, we need to show the how, and then we need to coach people until they have put in their hours and it becomes second nature. Lastly, for organizational change to really happen - we must connect people to the "why". Simon Sinek's book "Start with Why" is helpful in understanding how to connect people to the vision. Once connected to the why, people are able to go above and beyond.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pi Day Fun; Memorial High School

Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3/14) around the world. Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.
Pi has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. As an irrational and transcendental number, it will continue infinitely without repetition or pattern. While only a handful of digits are needed for typical calculations, Pi’s infinite nature makes it a fun challenge to memorize, and to computationally calculate more and more digits.

I am not sure what happened next, sometimes it is best to just let the pictures do the talking.

"You are going to adhere to the line on the floor? Right?"

"I guess that is a no on the line, huh?"