Posts Tagged ‘ theory of change ’

Curious

I have been reading Pasi Sahlberg’s book on the lessons to be learned from Finland’s successful education program. Dominant in the PISA assessments since their inception in 2000, this Scandinavian country which set out deliberately to improve its educational system in the 1970’s is used by reformers and politicians alike as the exemplar of high academic standards. And yet, we have largely failed to learn from their experience and methodologies. Increasing the competition among schools, assigning letter grades to schools based upon high stakes testing for a handful of subjects, and denigrating the profession as a group of inadequate part-timers is neither productive nor factual.

Ifinnish lessonsf we cannot learn from Finland’s success, then we should not use the PISA scores as evidence that our educational system is in need of reform. If you decry our mediocrity in international testing, then learn from the international leaders. Emphasize the importance of all subjects, not just those that are tested. Treat our teachers as professionals and compensate them accordingly. Do not hold back those students who have mastered the content. Apply special education as a resource to all students who have difficulty and apply it immediately. Personalize the delivery of learning to each student, not simply through software, but through empathetic personal connections to caring adults.

It’s time to offer practical help and solutions, not just criticism. Take Finland as an example. Take it to heart.

Questions, not many answers.

Here is an example in The Atlantic of how data is used for analysis that changes strategy. Sabermetrics correlates statistical data to outcomes and has been used for strategy in baseball since Billy Beane began using them in Oakland (Moneyball). It is now as unthinkable in baseball to build a strategy without using this tool as fielding a team without a pitcher. The current controversy is about who should really get credit for the win. What if the pitcher didn’t have a single strike out for the entire game? What if the catcher made every close pitch look like a strike? Does it matter? Only if you are responsible for outcomes.

How do we develop sabermetrics for education? Do we measure outcomes for teachers or students? What’s the educational equivalent of winning the World Series? What’s the equivalent of winning a division title? How about the equivalent of winning one of the 162 games in a season? How about the outcome for each inning of each of those games?

I love baseball, the great American pastime, and the correlation of data to outcomes that sabermetrics has brought to the game make all the more effective and exciting.

More importantly I also love education, the great American ask time. A time of inquiry and discovery. The current correlation of data to outcomes is that a child’s family income is a good predictor of their test scores. Is that as deep as we can go? And once we have the data, can we use the information to change outcomes?

Matthew May’s Three Hour Vision

Matthew May has it right. We no longer can afford to wait until the annual offsite retreat to react to the latest innovation in the education business. His three hour vision meeting is a good alternative. Perfect? No. But if you build some flexibility and interim decision points into the key projects in the last step, you will be miles ahead.

Educational institutions are notoriously risk averse. What if you get it wrong???

You have still learned much more about the problem than if you did nothing. Still worried? Don’t bet the house, use Peter Sims tactic of Little Bets.

By Any Other Name

All education organizations are risk-averse. It comes with the territory. We believe that no parent will ever entrust their child to an organization that is the institutional equivalent of Fast and Furious. But here’s the thing…every parent (and grandparent) wants their child to receive the absolute best in terms of instruction. Often what that means in this day and age is innovation – at least some variation to our time-honored pedagogy.

Yes innovation is scary. But how can we teach our kids that it’s okay to fail, if we are afraid to fail ourselves? Lisa Bodell, one of my heroes, says in her latest article in Strategy + Business,

Making it safe to try new things is critical for innovation to happen.

And yes, my educator friends, we must innovate! Think about it. By the time our current fourth graders graduate from high school, it will no longer be necessary to know how to manually drive a car. Maybe “FAILURE” just has too much cultural baggage in the educational environment. We need to find another term for a temporary lack of success. Any vocabulary suggestions?

What good is a performance review, if it doesn’t change behavior?

Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone in their article in the January-February issue of Harvard Business Review say that feedback, a necessary component of continuous improvement, is problematic because it creates a tension between two very human needs – the need to learn and grow and the need to be accepted for who we are. They describe the three ways criticism can push your buttons – truth triggers, relationship triggers and identity triggers. then they suggest six ways to be a better receiver, that is ways to find the coaching in the criticism. Here is the article.

http://hbr.org/2014/01/find-the-coaching-in-criticism/ar/1

Understanding and adjusting your attitude when you are receiving or delivering a review is one aspect of the process. This sensitizes the giving as well as the receiving. The other aspect of the productive review is frequency. In order to make reviews more productive they must be delivered frequently. Timing is everything. More work? Not necessarily. Go back and review One Page Talent Management by Marc Effron and Miriam Ort. This technique absolutely nails the productive review process. The review as described by these experts eliminates complexity and adds value…and changes behavior! And isn’t that what you want?

Changing Culture in order to Succeed

On November 14, 2013 Booz & Company published a whitepaper containing their survey findings about culture and organizational change. They surveyed 2,200 executives, managers and employees and analyzed the results. 

As an enabler of change, culture remains stubbornly under leveraged. Both the survey data and our years of experience observing a wide range of companies trying to transform some aspect of their business or operations suggest that culture is usually pretty far down the priority list.

Day-to-day attention to organizational culture from leadership is the only way to make sure change is successful. Your strategic plan must stress the “why” and its connection to culture. Change management consultants frequently use the analogy of a ship’s trim tabs as an illustration of how to apply leverage and change direction. Organizational culture is the trim tab for change. Recognize culture’s importance, or your initiatives (regardless of how logical or well-meaning) will likely fail.

 

Educational Moneyball

  1. Although they require a living wage, teachers unlike baseball players are not motivated by money; if they were, they wouldn’t be in education.
  2. The real measure of a high quality educational organization should be how many of their minor league teachers can they turn into major league all-stars. Hiring effective teachers that someone else has trained is cheating. Buying the Red Sox just before the World Series, doesn’t make you the world champion. 
  3. Most educational organizations put their rookies into the starting lineup from day one. Most baseball organizations carefully cultivate their minor league players make sure they are ready for the big dance.
  4. Even the best professional baseball player doesn’t win the world series every year, and the best teacher doesn’t dramatically improve their students’ test scores every year. In fact some excellent teachers don’t even teach tested subjects!
  5. You can’t predict the winner of a baseball game by knowing which team had the highest income. And yet, academic performance and a students’ family income are very closely correlated. You can even predict ACT and SAT scores based upon this.
  6. Just like in baseball, disruptive innovation in education will not come from the big money organizations.  There are thousands of highly capable general managers (public school superintendents) in this country with low-budget educational teams in small revenue markets just like the Oakland A’s. These educational leaders will be the source of innovation. Not because they are flush with cash from grants, but precisely the opposite. There were no baseball teams using sabermetrics until Billy Beane came to Oakland.
  7. Baseball is now a statistically rich game, education (though surely more important) is statistically anemic – almost all of our performance conclusions are based upon the annual results of three to five standardized tests. This too shall pass.