Monday, November 10, 2008

This is (Not) Our Emergency


But responsible leadership needs to tackle topics with an eye on the extent to which they’re actually pressing emergencies rather than just festering sources of injustice.

Ginning up educational crises just gets you this:

Instead of a quiet, deliberate process of figuring out what needed to be done and then simply doing it, the [poorly performing] companies launched new programs "often with great fanfare and hoopla aimed at 'motivating the troops'" only to see the programs fail to produce sustained results. They sought the single defining action, the grand program, the one killer innovation, the miracle moment that would allow them to skip the arduous buildup stage and jump right to the breakthrough.

This debilitating pattern of the "doom loop" is felt acutely in urban schools. School districts replace superintendents with alarming frequency, hailing each as the savior leader. Curricula lurch from progressive to traditional and back again, and each year a new professional development guru rolls out the program du jour. Initiatives and teams are developed without enough planning and training, and no program or leader is given enough time to produce great results. By the time any traction is made, a new program, fad, or leader is in place. Nobody is truly accountable, and no momentum toward excellent results is built up. Teachers are frustrated, and students fail to learn.