Archive for the ‘ Problem Solving ’ Category

First Day of School: Planning 101

With the start of school everyone is looking at the demographic planner for enrollment information. A little advice for school leaders before you get to the podium:

  • Use a year-over-year comparison to get a sense of the volatility of the numbers. If your  planner didn’t hit projections at School A until day 10 last year, don’t expect to hit them until day 10 this year.
  • There is a lot of noise in the first day of school enrollment numbers. If the roles from the previous year have not been purged, the numbers will be high. If you just report the actuals, your numbers will be low on the first day. For this reason many states use the 20th day of instruction as the official enrollment, some wait even longer.
  • Enrollment also vary by demographics and grade level. Elementaries will equalize within the first week, middle schools a little later, and high schools may take up to a month to really settle. The enrollment at higher poverty schools will be more variable and more students will enroll during the first week of school.
  • Your planner should be able to guide you regarding the schools that will have big swings in the numbers. Attendance boundary adjustments, a new housing development or a new charter school in the attendance area are just a few of the reasons for volatility in a school’s enrollment numbers.
  • Make sure you know what you are reporting – total enrollment, average daily attendance, or another variation of attendance figures.
  • Always have your planner compare your school by school numbers with each school’s rated capacity (and know how that capacity is calculated). Often rated capacities are an “ideal” condition and schools that exceed that capacity by a small amount can operate that way until a solution is found.
  • The big concerns should be those schools that have exceeded their projections by the staffing ratio and are above classroom capacity. Work with your principals to reach an accommodation – team teaching in one of the larger classrooms, use of a smaller room (office and/or conference room) for a self-contained class that has just a few students, float an elective class, using the library/media center for pull-out classes, etc. Your school leaders should know their buildings and what may or may not be possible. Because of the logistics involved, moving a temporary classroom into place on short notice is usually not a timely answer.
  • A less than two percent variation between total enrollment projection and actual total enrollment is acceptable.
  • Concentrate on figuring out why some schools where you had to adjust the staffing were high or low. Ask your planner for an after-action report after the dust settles. You will want to concentrate on those schools in which the projected enrollment was one staffing ratio above or below the actuals. The goal would be to not repeat that scenario at that school next year.
  • Accurate projections are one of the tools of leadership. If you can’t trust the numbers, change the way they are developed.

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/

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?

Innovation as an Economic Engine

from Fast Company…

4 Things Obama Could Do To Foster America’s Creativity

INNOVATION ENGINE

WRITTEN BY: 

BOOSTING THE MIDDLE CLASS, RESEARCHING CLEAN ENERGY, BUILDING BETTER SCHOOLS–ALL GOOD STUFF. BUT IF YOU WANT REAL ECONOMIC VALUE, BRUCE NUSSBAUM ARGUES, PROMOTE CREATIVITY ACROSS THE NATION.

When President Barack Obama takes the stage on Tuesday night to deliver his State of the Union address, he’ll attempt to take the pulse of the nation and prescribe a cure. His message is going to focus on the economy and helping the middle class. But his prescriptions, as leaked to the media, appear to be standard political fare–boost R&D, build infrastructure, more clean energy, and better schools.

That’s all good, standard stuff but familiar stuff. The problem is that Obama isn’t a very creative president. He’s progressive (which is great by me) but not creative in the sense of sharply reframing our national narrative and offering dramatically different solutions to our challenges.

Here’s a different speech. President Obama reframes himself and America’s economic agenda by making creativity the centerpiece of his State of the Union. Obama makes raising America’s creative capacities his second-term goal. There is good reason to do this.

Creativity is the source of economic value. Creativity takes what money can’t buy and transforms it into what money can buy. We have spent decades focusing on efficiency, and it has brought us stagnating incomes and falling mobility for the middle class. It’s time to focus on creativity.

Why? First, because we have so little of it. Most of us believe we live in an age of innovation, because of our iPads, Google, Facebook. But the reality is shockingly different. In my new book, Creative Intelligence, I cite the business R&D and innovation surveys put out by the NSF and Census Bureau showing that only 9% of all public and private corporations do any product or service innovation. Think about that. I don’t have any stats for innovation in government services, but we can all imagine how bad that must be (with the exception of the military).

How could the president amplify the nation’s creativity? Here are four major reframes of our national economic narrative, Mr. President.

1. MAKE ENTREPRENEURSHIP, NOT BIG BUSINESS, THE CENTERPIECE OF ECONOMIC POLICY

Most of our innovation and jobs come from new companies that expand and grow. Tax, regulatory, R&D, banking, and trade policies should all be reframed to enable and scale startup companies. And bring entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to Washington to run cabinet posts, regulatory bodies, and perhaps most important of all, the Fed and other financial policymaking organizations.

2. MAKE MANUFACTURING, NOT BIOSCIENCE, THE MAJOR RECIPIENT OF FEDERAL R&D SPENDING

Washington has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into bioscience with little economic impact. Thanks to digital fabrication, open sourcing, and low-cost sales channels, a new “maker culture” is rising. The government should support it.

3. PROMOTE CROWDSOURCING. RELEASE THE JOBS ACT FROM THE SEC

Kickstarter is the most important organizational change to capitalism since outsourcing (crowdsourcing, in many ways, is the opposite of outsourcing). We can all be consumers, investors, designers, and producers in a creative process that makes things. Kickstarter alone raised $300 million in 2012 from direct contributions.

The JOBS Act expands crowdsourcing to a wider economic space, but the SEC is strangling it in an effort to protect investors. Cut the red tape.

4. MAKE ART AND SHOP COURSES CENTRAL TO EDUCATION

John Dewey and Maria Montessori both believed that the best way of learning is by doing. We need to develop a creative-arts curriculum that puts making at the center of our education. Bringing back art and shop to the classroom are simple steps to get us using our hands again. The rote memorization of math and science to pass tests will not make America a creative, prosperous nation.

We have come to define capitalism as strictly a market phenomenon based on efficiency and trading. This narrative has both alienated and impoverished us. We need to recast capitalism as a social movement led by entrepreneurs generating new products with high economic value.

Mr. President, reframing the country’s economic narrative can set the nation on a new journey toward prosperity. Amplifying America’s creativity is a story that engages all of us across the political spectrum.