Let’s say you have a buck’s worth of change in your pocket. $1.00.
No more, no less.
You can spend that change on educational change. Remember, you don’t have deep pockets, you have a buck.
Everyone reading this knows schools today in the U.S. are mandated to change. Not because they want to change necessarily, and not because it’s probably in their best interest to do so. Failing schools, as identified by NCLB and AYP, have to make changes. It’s the law in the U.S.
You can tell me how stupid that is and I will agree to a degree. But as a school administrator, I’m responsible to our school community to make sure the school does what’s required.
Change in a school requires energy, and it is in finite supplies, just like that change in your pocket.
So you can spend 35 cents on reform associated with NCLB.
You can spend 45 cents on the new 800 lb. gorilla in the room, RtI.
If you don’ know about Response to Intervention, which we are mandated to address, go Google it. Be the vaunted self-learner everyone talks about.
It’s going to swallow schools and consume their efforts.
You have 20 cents left. Better spend wisely. Or maybe, you know what, maybe you keep that 20 cents. The change ends here, you say.
Schools spend tremendous amounts of energy just responding to the legal mandates that they face. It requires a tremendous supply of energy, energy that is limited and becoming more scarce by the minute.
If you face these initiatives, you don’t really worry about Facebook, you don’t worry about social media, you don’t worry about the “conversation,” and you certainly could care less about a disjointed, abstract set of tweets on a Tuesday night in Twitter, all centered around a hashtag.
You don’t even have time for listening to presentations from a “reform” conference. That’s on a Saturday, and I think I’ll spend it with my family, thank you very much. I already know about social bookmarking.
The mandates are real and you have to respond, and you have to respond in a sensible way. If you don’t, you’ll burn out your teachers, your department chairs, and your administrators. Wise schools find solid ways to do this, but no matter how strong your school is, you have some serious thinking to do. You have actionable steps to develop and implement and evaluate.
So, what about technology? For most in the educational world, technology, and understanding its application to learning, and how it might support the learning required to effectively change schools, begins to drift away. In many schools, technology is now for data collection and analysis of testing data, data that provides the raw material for the mandated changes of AYP and RtI. Leaders look at calls for opening up Facebook and Twitter, and using social media, and that call is met with incredulous stares, and you know what, rightfully so. There’s some serious work to do, no choice in the matter, and that just doesn’t cut it. Sorry, it doesn’t.
And so you see new resources emerge, most recently Mike Schmoker’s new book, Focus.
What a great title. Brilliant. Consider that title carefully, and the message that it sends…
From the book:
“What is “essential” for schools? Three simple things: reasonably coherent curriculum (what we teach); sound lessons (how we teach); and far more purposeful reading and writing in every discipline, or authentic literacy (integral to both what and how we teach).”
“The status quo has to change. We insult and frustrate our teachers and leaders when we keep asking them to adopt complex, confusing new initiatives and programs that can’t possibly succeed in the absence of decent curriculum, lessons, and literacy activities. These constitute the indisputable—if age-old—core of effective practice, and of education itself.”
Pushback against bright shiny objects? You bet it is.
And its being distributed by ASCD, and that means just about every principal and superintendant in the US will see it, or at the very least, someone on the leadership team of every school will have a copy.
I’m betting that this book, given the current climate in the U.S, will offer the roadmap. I’m betting most schools will say: ”Yeah, that makes sense. That’s how we will move forward, by focusing on those three things.”
And they’ll spend that last 20 cents.