Posts filed under ‘New Parent-Teacher Paradigm’

How to Create a Legacy in Education…for New and Returning Mayors

Yesterday we honored our nation’s democracy as voters in state and local elections across the country. As we congratulate new or returning mayors, why not set aside politics and offer a few guidelines for education leadership? 

1.  Align schools to mission and benchmarks…

  • PreK through 3rd grade
  • Grades 4 through 8
  • Grades 9 through 12

2.  Manage education for balance between supply and demand…

  • Students organized around equitable access to education and bridges to their communities
  • Academics organized around student needs and  instructional effectiveness

3.  Streamline business functions around the mission of education…

  • Student-centered funding and resource allocation – school as locus of control
  • Information systems that integrate finance, teacher effectiveness, and student outcomes
  • Matching of support services to student needs

4.  Develop results-oriented approach to services for outliers in the system…

  • Accelerated progress toward grade-level proficiency in Special Education
  • Two-pronged approach to ELL with growth in literacy in 1st language translating into more rapid assimilation into English language content
  • Level playing field in academics for students at risk

5.  Reward leadership that…

  • Achieves successful student outcomes
  • Values continuous growth for professional staff
  • Attracts voluntary enrollment
  • Is responsive to all community constituencies
  • Monitors key indicators of student satisfaction, service delivery, culture, and safety to anticipate disequilibrium and address it proactively
  • Allocates resources effectively and efficiently

6.  Seek alignment with evolving standards of information and technology to…

  • Get the best data on student outcomes, teacher effectiveness, financial management
  • Transcend the evolution from traditional media to digital tools for learning, communicating, and managing educational efforts
  • Create a vision for achievement that relegates regulatory compliance to the lowest common denominator among educators

With achievement of each of these strategies, mayors could spend more time creating a legacy in education and far less time dealing with NCLB failures, Parent Trigger campaigns, union battles, or random disruptions to the business of running their cities or towns.


November 6, 2013 at 2:43 PM Leave a comment

Demand Management for Public Schools?

Public education has the mission of educating all of the nation’s children. The marketing of this government service has never been much of a consideration. However, with the development of competitive education options for children, public school districts are feeling the squeeze. How can districts attract enough students to keep their schools open?

Who would choose to send their children to neighborhood public schools? The ideal response would be, “anyone.” Sadly, in many cities and towns, that response needs to be amended to say, “Anyone who doesn’t have better options.” While there are many strong school systems across the nation, the cost of living in those communities has risen with the relative value of the education system. In more affordable communities, the quality of education has come into question, and the number of children applying to the better public schools far exceeds the number of spaces available. Even financially strapped parents are opting out of public education, choosing to home school their children or give up precious child care hours for extra jobs to pay for private school options.

The federal government has attempted to drive improvements in schools through No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. There have been pockets of success under NCLB, but far too many public schools are failing to deliver adequate results for the children. To date, educators have responded with calls for alternative measures of success, greater funding for their efforts, and expanded social programs to meet the needs of the children whose achievement is complicated by conditions of poverty, homelessness, and fractured families.

Regardless of the validity of the educators’ point of view, the public school customers are actively voting with their feet and opting out of the system. Or they are gathering in the mayor’s office to communicate the strength of their votes in the absence of remedy. Public school closings are looming because anyone with a choice tries to go to the alternative program. Districts no longer serve a captive market.

Loss of citizen support for schools must be recognized and addressed. Educators need to wake up and acknowledge the precariousness of their positions. Schools must be customer-focused, offer high quality educational services, and meet the needs of the vast majority of local citizens. Because a surprising number of constituents are proving they do have a choice.

September 21, 2012 at 11:18 AM Leave a comment

Reinventing the Parent-Teacher Paradigm

Parent Trigger laws must be seen as the last straw. The current parent-teacher paradigm is broken in many districts. Whether parents are demanding an elevated role in education reform due to old frustrations or a new interest in their feedback, they are a force to be reckoned with. Rather than fight them in the political arena, education leaders need to welcome their participation. Parents must become active players in school governance, innovation, and improvement. And they need to share in the success of their children.

The existing parent-teacher paradigm is broken. There is more antagonism than partnership on balance, and the children are suffering. Players are choosing sides and behaving erratically as they try to follow power shifts rather than maintain a clear vision of what is right. It is time to stop the music and engage the full education community – students, educators, and parents – in structural solutions.

The most desirable outcomes in elementary and secondary education are summarized below…

  • Students are successful as measured by attendance, performance, completion, advancement, and satisfaction.
  • Students grow and mature consistently along expected physical, social, and emotional benchmarks.
  • Each school is culturally rich and inclusive with a strong vision for future leadership among its participants.
  • Educators match pedagogy to the needs of fully engaged, goal-oriented students.
  • Families are partners in the educational process, fully informed about opportunities, and having voice in outcomes as well as chances to get involved for their own benefit.
  • The school community benefits from a success cycle that demonstrates excellence and builds on that legacy as participants are attracted in perpetuity…students, educators, and community leaders from the larger urban context.

To support this future vision, existing systems must be updated…

  • Ensuring the status of parents and community members in school governance as voting members on boards at the district and school levels.
  • Creating a customer focus among educators, and imbedding student/parent feedback loops in the school systems.
  • Elevating the community liaison/leader to equality with instructional leadership in school administration.
  • Inclusion of the parent community in programs for success…community outreach for education and access for non-educational support services.

The change process must be about facilitating parent involvement, which may mean removal of obstacles created by toxic habits of the past. This legacy must be assessed for such patterns as stonewalling in lieu of information; inconvenience in lieu of access; or outright punishment of parents for student discipline issues in lieu of partnership for proactive intervention for success. Sometimes the first step toward a promising future sounds a little like, “I’m sorry…and I need your help.

Previous related posts…

Mayors and Parents Begging for New Education Leadership

#5 in Seven Keys to Education Reform

Engaging the School Community in the Project Management Approach to School Improvement

August 9, 2012 at 6:59 AM Leave a comment

Engaging the School Community in the Project Management Approach to School Improvement

When major change is needed that minimizes disruption to ongoing operations, project managers from the engineering world can help. Theirs is the world of overcoming obstacles while managing time, costs, and interdependencies to achieve desired outcomes. So, how do you achieve engineering efficiency while educating children? Warm fuzzies, please…

Seismic shifts in education are destabilizing the industry, dislodging the embedded power structures, and creating conditions ripe for change. What changes are to be achieved and how they happen seem to be subject to debate. Nevertheless, the path to the future needs to be crafted with vision, ruthless commitment to deliverables, and equal devotion to personal dignity in the process.

Project management is a formalized approach to problem-solving that begins with the usual steps of analyzing the situation, identifying the problems, considering the possible solutions, and choosing the best responses. However, it takes the added step of intending every stage in the implementation of the solution. Project managers analyze the ongoing operations and the changes to be made, understanding linear dependencies, parallel functions, and overlaps between the two. The process of change is mapped out based on achievement of deliverables along a timeline using available resources under necessary constraints. Time, money, and manpower are limited, but so is the organization’s tolerance for disruption. Benchmarks for success are designed into the process to ensure successful completion.

Specialized project management developed out of the need for precision in engineering; however, it also serves the function of preserving the “business as usual” path as much as possible to normalize the function of the entity that is undergoing change. Nowhere is that more important than in a human services organization such as a school. So, how do we manage the intersection of project managers, teachers, and children?

With support from the District, school leaders need to address each of the following with staff, parents, and community partners…

  • Vision: the future that is now – compelling reasons for the process
  • Beneficiaries: the outcomes for stakeholders
  • Change agents: the people who will manage the project
  • Project outline: the timeline and key benchmarks
  • Stakeholder contributions: what is needed from the staff and school community
  • Seamless transitions: how the staff and children will be shielded from unnecessary disruptions
  • Fall-out shelters: process for seeking remedy with inconvenience
  • Adoption: staff, community buy-in
  • Exit strategies: options for those choosing not to be part of the future vision

Throughout the process, the security needs of the participants must be addressed explicitly. Change is difficult and met with trepidation almost universally. Issues such as control over ones classroom and job security are crucial for teacher cooperation. Quality assurance for the children and their education remains a current imperative. Access to leadership and preservation of voice in the change process are essential for all stakeholders. And, btw, this is probably not a good time to fire half the staff.

August 1, 2012 at 8:14 AM 1 comment

Mayors and Parents Begging for New Education Leadership

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.

June 25, 2012 at 8:23 AM 1 comment