Mayors and Parents Begging for New Education Leadership

June 25, 2012 at 8:23 AM 1 comment

The Parent Trigger is a cry for help. Big city mayors want chronic problems in education to get off their desks, and all parents want access to high quality education for their children. Both will seek remedy in charter management organizations as a last resort…but what the politicians and the public really need is a new kind of leadership in public K-12 schools. It cannot come completely from within…but it must be embraced and welcomed within to fend off the real barbarians at the gate.

In the news…

June 17 (Reuters) – “Hundreds of mayors from across the United States this weekend called for new laws letting parents seize control of low-performing public schools and fire the teachers, oust the administrators or turn the schools over to private management.”

Tired of negative responses from parents to the question, “Are you being served?” politicians are seeking radical remedy in parent trigger laws. Educators are furiously fending off criticism and predicting draconian results in this trigger-happy environment.  School management companies are condensing from vapor as entrepreneurs and charlatans salivate over new business opportunities. Hopefully the children are on vacation and blissfully unaware of this hyperbolic folly. Otherwise, the adults may be schooling them in the game of divide and conquer.

A unified solution that links teachers and parents under enlightened school leadership will be the only enduring way out of the problem. Essentially, parents want their children to be well-educated, and they are looking for help in the political arena because they cannot achieve results within their community schools. It behooves the teachers and administrators to settle their differences with their local consumers and restore partnership. This will require a new kind of management and customer focus within each school.

Instructional leadership has been the panacea for education reformers who want educators to stay in charge of themselves. While this is a noble goal…clearly, teachers are natural leaders, and who understands the issues better than classroom veterans…teaching children does not train one in the management of adults or larger systems. Nor does it prepare leaders for the loss of control over their domains. A school leader is accountable for results that he or she cannot deliver without delegation of the process. That is the stuff of more generic management.

To date, a major debate in education reform has drawn lines between process and results, as if one could choose one over the other. In addition, good process has been allowed to supersede results in the face of disappointing outcomes for the children. After all…real learning cannot be measured. That’s where the disgruntled parents come into play. They are in the mayor’s office and not happy, and their votes can be counted. It is time for school leaders to get out of the echo chamber and change the conversation.

Twenty-first century education management must be sophisticated enough to handle more than, dare I say, simple instructional leadership. Schools will be managed by people who can balance a more complex production function in education services as well as an informed and empowered consumer of these servicers. Again, that is a general manager.

Change is afoot within major universities where schools of education and schools of management are negotiating plans for collaborative leadership training that would have been considered heresy a decade ago. Under the best of circumstances, the new education leader will have experience in the classroom and advanced training in management. However, if they are to be successful in future bids to manage themselves, traditional educators must welcome the opportunity for serious expansion of their management models as well as newcomers from the business community who will consider the classroom a step on their career ladders to school leadership.

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Entry filed under: New Parent-Teacher Paradigm, School Leadership, School Transformation.

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