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).”

Here’s more:

“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.




Posted via email from djakes’ posterous

3 Responses to “Change Change”
  1. Jason Kern says:

    I totally agree that those three things are essential to every school but why is that pushback against shiny things? If you are not looking at any technology (or any other tool in your classroom) through the lens of how can it improve what I teach, how I teach and how does it make my students more purposeful reading and writing then your not doing your job.

    Currently we are working on a new structure in an economics classroom that involves podcasts, google docs and spreadsheets, in class researchers and other bright shiny things. We thought about all three of those things when we designing the class and thought that this approach would lead to accomplishing all three of those things in a new learning environment as you would say.

    Here is a brief summary of how we answered those questions but you can see a longer explanation at http://edtechemu.blogspot.com/2011/01/flipping-economics-classroom.html

    What we teach – Instead of teaching economics in a simply theoretical way in canned examples we wanted to bring current examples into the classroom. That way they not only learned the theory but how it practically applies. This approach we hope will lead to more critical thinking and the ability to ask informed questions.

    How we teach – In order to have these discussions in class we still have to have a basic knowledge of the theory so we podcasted our lectures. So the class listens to the 20 minute podcast as homework to gain a framework. Then when bring in NPR clips, NY Times articles, local papers and other media into class to start the discussion. Then we see how these current events apply the economic theories.

    More purposeful reading and writing – Once a week the students have to find their own article and analyze it on a blog. This allows them to do some meaningful reading to identify articles that would apply to the theories and then reflect on how they apply. They also are required to comment on each others blogs or other sites to further their reading and writing skills.

    I get tired of people saying that it has to be one or the other. We don’t have to leave these three questions to use the shiny things. Sometimes the shiny things can be used to answer those three questions in a better way.

    But you already know all of this. Thanks for riling me up.

  2. Joe Brennan says:

    Love the buck analogy! Very well written, Dave. Sound thinking.

  3. [...] You can read some of my preliminary thoughts about the potential impact of the book in Change Change. [...]

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