Archive for the ‘ Education ’ Category

What goes around…

My assigned project for my MOOC from Stanford University’s “d. school” recently was improving the school-to-work continuum. The school to work continuum for teachers’ education is actually a circular relationship – K-12 schools provide the human capital (high school graduates) to the universities to the universities provide the human capital (teachers) to the K-12 schools. I have heard both post-secondary and K-12 institutions complain about the quality of the product they were receiving. Bill Keller in a recent New York Times opinion says improving teacher training is an urgent priority. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/opinion/keller-an-industry-of-mediocrity.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0&ref=billkeller

I am a firm believer in constructive dialogue. IF (and that’s a big IF!) we could get the K-12’s and the universities to provide constructive feedback to one another, we could change the outcomes…and produce better students and better graduates along the way (which is really the point).

How about a Get Satisfaction https://getsatisfaction.com/corp/ dialogue for K-12 schools and universities? It could be restricted access due to personnel issues, but the aggregate reviews (80% of consumers say they are influenced by customer reviews) could be made public, like GPTW and Forbes magazine do with great companies. This would provide organizations the incentive to participate.

Timing is everything. All of our educational institutions must re-invent themselves in the next ten years or lose market share to the disruptors and die. I believe a mutually beneficial digital dialogue about improving the quality of the outcomes will yield some amazing results.

Stress-test Strategy

Always stress-test your strategy. Solid advice from Robert Simons in Harvard Business Review.

http://hbr.org/2010/11/stress-test-your-strategy-the-7-questions-to-ask/ar/pr

I especially love this one…

The debate must be about what is right, not who is right. People should check titles and office politics at the door. You should encourage everyone to take risks, state unpopular opinions, and challenge the status quo.

A tactic is only good as long as it accomplishes what it is supposed to do. Measure the outcomes. If the tactic is wrong, then have the guts to admit it and pivot to create a better one. Nothing worse than riding a bad tactic just to save face.

The Trouble with Education (Part Two)

If we learned anything from Malcolm Gladwell’s research about hockey players, it should be that grouping children by age puts younger students in the same age group at a significant disadvantage. Parents understand this. Given the choice between putting their child in kindergarten at the earliest possible opportunity, or waiting until the next year, most (given the choice) “hold back” their child’s entry into kindergarten. Why? So that he or she has the advantage of another year of mental and physical development and a better chance of success (at or above grade level) when compared to their “peers”.

Date of manufacture has nothing to do with a student’s intelligence and anyway, lifelong learners don’t have an expiration date.

So why do we continue to move our students through the educational assembly line grouped by age (grade level)? We even celebrate our ability to get students through high school “on time” by reporting a four-year graduation cohort as the graduation rate. But is that really cause for celebration?

Students that are unable to learn as fast as their same-age peers are not less intelligent.  Tossing them on the academic scrap heap in a comparison sort of their grade level, simply because it takes them longer to learn than others of the same age, is a waste of talent.  All 21st century students must learn what we teach. We no longer have the luxury of leaving some of them behind. We don’t have to time and date stamp their acquisition of that knowledge either.

Is combining all students of a certain age into a grade level really the best we can do?

And another thing…

(Stay tuned for Part Three.)

Good Communication (sample)

Every superintendent has a opening-of-school communication and then the follow-up. This portion of a follow-up letter from Dr. Carolyn M. Kossack, Superintendent of Little Silver, is particularly noteworthy. She explains with transparency (and a little bit of humor) why parents weren’t permitted in the schools during the first days of school this year.

We continually re-evaluate safety and security procedures for the district in order to keep your students
safe. Therefore, this year and moving forward, we opted not to open the doors for parents to escort their
children to their classrooms, which has historically resulted in hundreds of adults roaming through the
hallways. Respectfully, this was our best opening ever in terms of students transitioning to their new
routine. This year we did not have any crying students (only tearful parents).

I can see it, can’t you? Dr. Kossack nailed it!

The Trouble with Education (Part One)

Why do we make K-12 education a timed test? In the industrial age when we had to sort the college-bound management material from the trade schoolers, I suppose this was as good a method as any. Those that were “quick” and/or “bright” were identified and eventually sent off to college. It was assumed that those headed to manual labor did not need all that was being taught, since they were to become human machinery (typists, mechanics, plumbers, etc.). The “sort” that the timed test accomplished was about right – 15/85.

Not so today. Sorting the college-bound students from the trades is no longer necessary, nor is the proportion of the “sort” correct.  We need far less human machinery, and far more critical thinkers. (I have heard estimates of the need for college graduates as high as 70/30.) Failure to learn is now the problem, not failure to learn quickly.

When  we measure success as the ability to learn within an annual or semi-annual testing timeframe, we miss the point, All students must learn the material, if we want them to succeed. And most can, just not within our arbitrary number of school days allotted before the test.

And another thing…

(Stay tuned for Part Two)

Clarity of Purpose

It is often very easy to assume that in educational organizations, everyone knows what the target is. Not so in my experience. Victor Lipman in his piece in Forbes says very clearly that  without clarity, management doesn’t work.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/victorlipman/2013/10/01/without-this-quality-management-doesnt-work/?goback=%2Egde_718907_member_5792793493000695811#%21

Do not assume that everyone is headed in the same direction. Make sure everyone on the team knows what is important and how you intend to get there.

Candor in Communication

Laura Rittenhouse left Lehman Brothers in 1997 and began analyzing the candor of CEO communications.  As Sally Helgesen says in Strategy + Business there is no substitute for candor.

http://www.strategy-business.com/blog/Laura-Rittenhouses-Candor-Analytics?gko=d416c&cid=20131003aagC&utm_campaign=20131003aagC

Smoke and mirrors in the form of academic jargon and/or obfuscation has its price. If there were a Rittenhouse Ranking for organizations like yours, where would you rank?

Strategic Planning 101

From 12 ways to improve your leadership to 3 ways to a healthy lifestyle I think most advice from bloggers is too simplistic and often just plain wrong. The latest from Ron Ashkenas and Logan Chandler is the exception. These four tips for a better strategic plan are right on target. http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/10/four-tips-for-better-strategic-planning/

  • Test the assumptions.
  • Banish fuzzy language.
  • Escape from template tyranny.
  • Ask provocative questions.

A bad plan is worse than no plan at all.

Great Places to Work?

The Great Places to Work Foundation just published this year’s list of the 50 small and medium-sized organization that are great places to work.

http://www.greatplacetowork.com/publications-and-events/press/2281-great-place-to-workr-announces-2013-best-small-a-medium-workplaces-list?goback=%2Egde_1733557_member_275044989#%21

See any school districts on this list? This is a missed opportunity for smaller school districts. To my knowledge no school district has ever been on the list. This is a goal worth pursuing. Anyone want to step up?

Education in Search of Relevance

My ancestors worked with their hands. They loved making things. For better or worse, I have inherited that gene. I have been a draftsman, a farmer, a carpenter and one day perhaps even a potter again.

My grandfather, Henry, worked at the Crane and Breed Company in Cincinnati, Ohio as a wood carver. This is the kind of work he used to do – hearses and caskets.

Image

After he retired, I remember him working daily at his tool bench in the basement making or improving one household item or another until he was satisfied. I often wonder what he would be improving, if he were still alive. I suspect he would be using an i-pad and a 3-D printer to do it.

The maker culture has finally made its way into education. Project-based learning is a logical gateway to transform the modern classroom into a makerspace. Stephanie West-Puckett in her blog on Edutopia provides a thorough explanation of how and why this should occur. read her post at http://www.edutopia.org/blog/classroom-makerspaces-transformative-learning-stephanie-west-puckett

Like you, students need to find nurturing places in real life and on the web to geek out with others who share their passion. They’ll thrive in spaces that perpetually rekindle their desire to make meaningful contributions toward personally relevant issues, ideas, people and interests.

Education in search of relevance to students. Now there’s a radical idea!