Taking the Project Management Approach to School System Improvement

July 31, 2012 at 11:57 AM 1 comment

Whether talking about district, whole-school, or classroom improvement, reformers tend to talk in terms of competing options as though we can only handle one process at a time. Given the seemingly endless list of needs, this mission seems impossible. However, borrowing the project management approach from the technology field can be a game changer. What if we applied a series of parallel processes to the task, reducing the impact of obstacles that shut us down when we get stuck on a linear trajectory?

In Seven Keys to Education Reform I recommend that we…

  1. Build the data infrastructure for the next generation of education leadership, from formulas for government funding to data on student outcomes and teacher effectiveness.
  2. Make teacher pensions portable.
  3. Place teachers and administrators in shared incentive programs linked to student achievement in their schools.
  4.  End pedagogy wars.
  5.  Reinvent school leadership modeled on the general manager role and asset-based management. Balance administrative teams with instructional leaders and community liaisons.
  6. Open up the dialogue in Special Education to include the children by 4th grade, and provide incentives for progress toward grade level proficiency.
  7.  Value people of all ages.

This multi-pronged approach seeks to address the system-wide obstacles within education operations without assigning blame on individuals. However, major changes will need to be made concurrently, and lead educators must create an illusion of terra firma within that system while it is in flux.

Meanwhile, schools must be on a path to improved outcomes based on a new service delivery model. Just a few of the innovations within schools will include…

  • Reinvention of the parent-teacher paradigm
  • New curricular standards and assessments, with vertical realignment of grade-level priorities
  • Development of diverse pedagogical approaches and team teaching
  • Implementation of new employee incentives and multiple-measure teacher evaluations
  • Innovations in special education and ELL programs
  • Longitudinal data collection on the whole child
  • Formalization of student growth and development strategies

Either we need a world-class symphony conductor, or we better develop a cadre of project managers to support school leaders and staff.

Whether motivated by Race to the Top, NCLB Waivers, the Parent Trigger, or bootstrap entrepreneurship, school reform requires a complex mix of one-time changes and evolutionary processes. Operationalizing the changes will mean serious task analysis, time lines, and strategic planning. Change agents with the unique skill set of project management must be allowed to become part of the landscape as they guide us through successive cycles of change, evaluation of results, plan adjustments, and renewal.

Rapid implementation of structural changes within schools is not unprecedented in existing public education systems.  The small-school movement happened overnight in many high schools. In addition, we have considerable experience with teacher collaboration as well as multi-disciplinary teamwork, especially in the area of student support services. However, change agents must be prepared to overcome the obstacle of institutional memory for past programs and their stewardship. Deep-rooted cynicism has become the legacy of school improvement fads that flopped as well as promising experiments that succumbed to the vagaries of grant funding.

As mentioned in my last post, high-powered veteran leaders will be needed to engender trust and confidence in the change process. Seamless transitions must be orchestrated by process pros. And meeting the security needs of the teachers and staff throughout the transition will be essential to success. More on that last point in my next post…



Entry filed under: School Leadership, School Transformation.

In Support of the Strong Individual Leader Engaging the School Community in the Project Management Approach to School Improvement

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Project Management System  |  January 28, 2013 at 12:26 AM

    Definitely!!.. This would really help to enhance and improve more the performance on an individual. Thank you for this information.


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