Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do you know where you are going?

I am sitting in Midway Airport thinking about vision.  We describe vision as declaring where you want  to be in a specified period of time.  Three years. Five years.  AND, I am thinking of one of my favorite Yogi Berra quotes, "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else." It occurs to me that creating and communicating your vision is a lot like air travel.  I have spent a lot of time in airports over the last year, many of them for the first time.

Airports are incredibly easy to navigate, even if you've never been in a particular one before. That's because the signage is crystal clear. Short-term parking Long-term parking Economy parking Arrivals  Departures Concourse Gates Baggage claim I think you get the idea.

Now I know that creating a vision for a school district is much more complex.  And I still think we can learn from the airport metaphor. Are you clear about where you want to go? What is your district's vision? Do you have clear signs for getting there? Do you have goals? Do you check data to see if you are on the right track? Do you practice continuous improvement, celebrating what works and asking what could be better?

We know what it feels like to get diverted, to run into rough weather. And yet the plane still arrives, even if it is late.  

 Do you have a clear picture of your district's journey? Do you send consistent messages about your vision? Do you continuously ask, "what does this have to do with our vision?" If not, how can you know where you are going? How can you know when you get there?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What makes a leader?

This newsletter from Alternative Resolutions h as a nice list of skills and dispositions found in today's successful leaders.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Arne Duncan on The Daily Show

Arne Duncan was on the Daily Show last week, talking about Race to the Top and the new initiative aimed at improving the teaching profession.

Hope for Wisconsin Testing

Wisconsin has taken a leading roll in the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium.  In this article on assessment in California, Linda Darling Hammond explains how this test will be good for California students.  It will be interesting to see how testing experts in Wisconsin will view the change for our state.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cognitive dissonance

"Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.
Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates."

The above is taken from an article in Sunday's New York Times, Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It.

How do you explain this phenomenon?  The following graphs only further add to my curiosity.  Here in Wisconsin, the vast majority of jobs that will be created by 2018 will require absolutely no education.  And workers cannot support their families on these jobs.  In fact, if you look at the last two slides in this post, you will see the dramatic increase in poverty in the  state over the last six years, as well-paying manufacturing jobs continue to disappear from the state.  Twenty-three years ago, Minnesota and Wisconsin had roughly the same per capita income.  No more.  Today, Wisconsin lags behind Minnesota.  Today, the gap is over $4,000 and continues to grow.

2018 Wisconsin Job Openings by Education

Poverty in Wisconsin has risen dramatically in the last five years.  As you look at these maps,  white counties have the lowest poverty rates, degrees of pink indicate increasing levels of poverty, deep red  indicates counties with highest poverty rates.

What are the implications of this for our schools and our children?

I often wonder, where is the leadership to take on this problem?  Perhaps the answer can be found in the quote from the NYT article.  

Function limited by form

 Larry Cuban talks about one of the most successful reforms ever introduced to public education: graded classrooms, in this blog post,  Ungraded schools: Past and Present. Of particular note is the notion that part of the reason we have such difficulty changing this practice is the design of our school buildings.  While there are many forces that work to keep graded classrooms in place, the "egg crate" design, where each teacher has his or her own classroom, limits teachers' ability to create multi-age classrooms, create workstations that integrate technology,  and work in teams with large groups of students.

This post is the second of a three-part series Cuban wrote about the forces that work against today's efforts to transform public schools to address the needs of today's learners. Interesting reading for anyone interested in education reform.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thinking outside of the box--the classroom box

In this Ed Week article, Arthur Wise takes a look at the way our facilities inhibit innovation and offers an interesting way of organizing our schools. Take a look and then think about how you might re-imagine your facilities to provide 21st century programming.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Even in baseball it's hard

So, those of you who know me, know that I love baseball.  And you probably also are aware of the way we talk about the tradition of baseball, it's long history.  Well, it can be hard to change those traditions.  Last night, I finally had a chance to see Moneyball.  The movie is about Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics and what he did to create a winning team in a game where the playing field may be level, but the system of acquiring players is not.  A game where big money teams like the Yankees have an advantage when it comes to putting a team together. To quote Harry Carey, "HOLY COW!"  I could not stop thinking about the connection to public education.

The story is not about baseball.  The story is about leadership and change. It's about having a vision and the commitment to stick with that vision.  It's about what it takes to stand in the face of resistance to what you are doing and doing it anyway.  It's about complex problems and the way they act; sometimes making things worse in the short run, and showing how if you stick with it, learning as you go and making adjustments, you can win big.

Imagine what we could do in public education if we could do that!  I am sure we'd hit a grand slam, and old Harry would stand up and say "Kids win!  Kids win! Kids win!(see note below)

(For those of you who are wondering who is Harry Carey:   (Baseball announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs.  When the Cubs would win, he was always say, "Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!)