Though your efforts to improve our nation’s schools by improving the quality of teaching is well meaning, it sadly is a throwing of good money after bad.
For well over a century, most attempts to reform our schools have failed or have made little difference in quality. This is especially true of the reforms aimed at improving teachers. If they had been successful, we wouldn’t still have the consistent national dropout average of 30%, or the inner city dropout rate of 50%
A review of the history of school reforms will support the accuracy of that claim.
So the question is, why do all of reform attempts ultimately fail? The answer is that fail because they are narrowly focused. They are not taking the whole system into perspective. That’s throwing good money after bad.
Improving the quality of teaching without improving the learning environment in which teachers practice is like putting new wine into old, leaky bottles. The improved teachers are the “new wine,” and the management system is the “old, leaky bottle.”
Schools are essentially managed under the industrial/military management model of command and control. It is a management model that has never proven to be the right model for developing an effective learning environment.
In an authoritarian system, top management imposes reforms on to the front-line staff, and on the community as a whole, without benefiting from collective wisdom or collaborative input. Top-down imposed changes have built-in blind spots caused by intentional ignoring or mistrusting of the core understandings that front-line professionals have. This breeds anxiety, and creates upward flowing mistrust, resentment and even sabotage. Top-down imposed change is throwing good money after bad.
Now, here’s the kicker: In recent years, thousands of organizations world wide -- business, non-profit, and even parts of the military, and a few schools -- have ditched the top-down, command-and-control model in favor of a more democratic participatory model. There is robust compelling evidence that the participatory model is more effective, resilient, relevant, and sustainable in building high quality organizations than is the command-and-control authoritarian model.
Further, we have long known that a “one size fits all” curriculum doesn’t work. You can’t effectively teach humans by using an assembly line or pre-scripted program. Learners are unique. They are not unassembled parts that once assembled will all look and be alike. Yes, we have to educate the masses, but mass education (one size fits all) has never really worked. It, too, is throwing good money after bad.
If you check the lists of participatory organizations in such sources as Worldblu's Most Democratic Organizations, Appreciative Inquiry’s various publications, Servant Leadership’s publications, and The Great Game of Business’ web site, you will find that most of them are the same companies that regularly make Fortune Magazine’s list of Best Companies to Work In.
So, Bill, Arne, Michelle, et al, instead of throwing good money after bad, why not invest good money where it will give us the most return on investment?
CRISIS IN SCHOOL MANAGEMENT: Making Schools Work for Everyone, http://www.jamesevers.com
“Relevance and myths of teacher training”: