Some people have 10 years of experience. Other people have 1 year of experience 10 times, I wish this were my quote. However, it came from a source on Slashdot – which I always recommend everyone read a few times a week.
There was an article titled, Lessons From a Decade of IT Failures :The takeaways from tracking the big IT debacles of the last 10 years. The quote actually came from the comments about the article.
It struck me in a profound way. I immediately, and sadly, thought of many of my co-workers who fall into this category. I also thought of key institutional indicators which could be warning signs that decisions are not being made from the “right place”.
The Right Place
There are many schools that run teacher centered, adminstration centered, and community centered models of education. These can all be reviewed at another time, but what they all have in common is that the needs of the student are not the priority.
Research in Education in the last twenty years overwhelmingly supports student centered learning. To be in the right place a school should be following student centered approaches. This requires fairly frequent adjustments to scheduling, assessment practice, learning support, etc. Being student centered means supporting a culture of change. Not always large swooping change, but often small adjustments that ripple influence like a stone hitting the water.
Key Indicators of a Problem
If change is supported in a student centered environment, a school administrator would not see the following (would not, think negative, think dark):
- The same schedule being followed for more than three years
- No curriculum revision cycle
- Lack of data for moving students to different levels
- A small number of PD requests from teachers
- The absence of a formal school improvement plan
- No effort given to defining of hours related to subject completion or academic success
- People in non-leadership roles running programs from a “playbook”
- Teachers and Administrators without improvement indicators attached to their annual review
Technology Can Help
Of all the things we can use technology for in school, nothing is easier and more clear cut than using it to collect and study data. From basic Excel implementations to Powerschool, there are many options to allow a small group of administrators to collect and study data.
This process, and hopefully a regular one at that, would quickly flag trends leading to the negative list of key indicators above.
Finding the problem after it has occurred is not going to be enough. The only way to have a real solution, is to stop the problem before it reaches a critical mass and becomes embedded in the culture.
Like a video game with flaw or loophole: If you detect it before you launch the game then it is classified as an error; if you detect it after you launch the game it is classified as a feature.