What is Strategy?

I believe that sound business principles have a place in the world of education. A good strategic plan is part of that. Just saying that you want to be better than everyone else isn’t a strategy. If you redact your district name and logo from your strategic plan, could it belong to another district?  Every plan doesn’t have to be as unique as one of Seth Godin’s “ideaviruses”, but there are local opportunities and nuances that need to be included. A plan can be a single sheet description of what is important to your district – the chance for leadership to set the course. The more pages in the plan, the better the chance it will become a paperweight or sit on a shelf unused. The plan should explain the “why” and include a little of the “how” – big picture, less detail. Too much of the “how” and you will need to revise it more often. A colleague of mine has shared Mark Sniukas’ overview of strategy. Skim it first, then go back and read what caught your interest.

http://www.slideshare.net/sniukas/what-is-strategy-1687829?utm_source=slideshow&utm_medium=ssemail&utm_campaign=weekly_digest

 

Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes

A five-minute research-based video that deals with the community influences we all know hurt student outcomes.Clearly, the next step is for someone to take responsibility for addressing this, although no one has the authority to do so.

Seth Godin’s blog

Overcoming amazing.

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/05/overcoming-the-impossibility-of-amazing.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+typepad%2Fsethsmainblog+%28Seth%27s+Blog%29

This is why when we start a design session we ask each participant to generate at least ten solutions. Number one is never perfect. Number ten is better. Zolli in Resilience talks about hybrids as being the way to avoid catastrophic system failure (unless they change, all systems fail). Taking the best of solution number one and solution number ten and combining them gets us closer to amazing.

Parent participation in school improvement.

We often get enthusiastic parent or community groups that want to participate in school improvement, but many districts do not have a process that accommodates that effort. Why not let design thinking drive the solutions? The parents and teachers at Riverdale Country School in New York City and the folks at IDEO have produced a manual that may help. You will also need an integrative thinker or two (see Roger Martin, The Opposable Mind) to facilitate the process. Here is the URL for the manual…it’s free. http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/

Competitive?

http://www.thegatesnotes.com/Topics/Education/World-Class-Education-Photo-Gallery

Even if you are suspicious of using high-stakes tests as a benchmark of national progress, this dataset showing high school and college graduation rates, college readiness and investment per student should be a wake-up call for us.

Collaboration

http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2013/03/ideas-bank/we-need-a-new-language-for-the-collaborative-age?goback=%2Egde_836_member_237922670

What are the implications of social media for the future of education? As Nilofer Merchant says in her Wired magazine article, our descriptors must change, but so too must our methodologies. The better districts will become truly collaborative and inclusive. No longer will parents and families be simply “customers”, but rather “collaborators”, “contributors”…”educators”! Those districts will move away from the assembly line processes of traditional education and toward a more organic and agile delivery system.

The six ways teachers want to change schools

The six ways teachers want to change schools

Here is an interesting idea…if you want to improve outcomes in our schools, why not listen to the professionals? Not the administrators, but the teachers. Many businesses have made dramatic gains by listening to their staff. How about our schools?

The Eleven Traits of a Good Teacher.

The Eleven Traits of a Good Teacher.

What would you include in your list?

Missing

Why can’t K – 12 organizations be as good as post-secondary institutions at connections with student and staff alumni? While not equal in terms of a source of revenue with post-secondary alumni, they nonetheless provide a strong base of experience and support. As charter schools increase their footprint, I expect they will no doubt use their connections to student alumni to their advantage, similar to what the private schools do already. But even the private K -12 institutions tend to ignore staff alumni.

My post-secondary alma mater basks regularly in the borrowed light of former students Hugh Hardy and Michael Graves. Bill Belichick used to come annually to Annapolis High School to visit with the Deputy Superintendent (his former coach) and the student athletes on the football team. Although it probably doesn’t raise test scores by a single point, opportunities to connect caring and successful adults with students open windows into worlds that are both exciting and aspirational. This opportunity exists for each and every educational institution. There are success stories out there that need to be told and successful student and staff alumni to be used as resources. If our stated goal in education is to give each and every student the tools to be successful, then inspiration provided by successful former students and staff cannot be ignored.

My former employer has at least seven current K – 12 school superintendents among their staff alumni and countless senior staff in other districts. Aren’t they a resource worth consulting on a regular and somewhat formal basis? Although some are consulted on an ad hoc basis from time to time, at the moment they appear to be an under-utilized and therefore missed opportunity.

The Measurement of (Future) Success

I have just finished reading Moneyball. It is the story of how Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, developed a winning team within the constraints of a minimal operating budget. He did it by re-thinking the institutionalized measurements of a player’s value and potential that had been used by major league baseball since the game was invented and a Brit named Henry Chadwick developed the record-keeping format. I believe this has implications for 21st century education.

While developing the 2014 strategic plan for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, I was amazed to find that our sole measure of the success of our schools was the scores of the state tests – basically three at elementary school and five in secondary school. Parents, educators, and elected officials used this statistic to determine which schools were “the best”.

  1. How do we know that these specific measurements lead to success for students?
  2. These measures only cover a third of the subjects. What does that imply about the other two-thirds?
  3. How is the ability to memorize facts and formulas a 21st century skill? (Common core may cure some of this one.)

If we are to measure what matters for students to be successful in the future, what is it that we need to measure and how do we make sure students receive it as part of their education?

I would be interested to hear about what in your formal and informal education has made it possible for you to be successful.