"Two Types of Superintendent" --by Diane Ravitch

Here's an article that summarizes what's going on in American schools pretty well.  I feel kind of embarrassed about it, I mean, of all places in the world for wisdom to show up, wouldn't you think it'd be in the education system?  Well, maybe not.

from Diane's letter to Deborah (after she's laid out a portrait of one kind of superintendent, the kind who seeks to administer to learners' needs):

"On the other hand is the new breed of reform superintendent. Whether he (or she) was a business executive, an education entrepreneur, or a
lawyer, he is steeped in a business mindset. He wants results. He
surrounds himself with business school graduates, lawyers, marketing
consultants, and public relations staff. He focuses on management,
organization, budgeting, and data-driven decision-making. He shows
little or no interest in curriculum and instruction, about which he
knows very little. He is certain that the way to reform the schools is
to "incent" the workforce. He believes that accountability, with
rewards and sanctions, makes the world go round. He plans to "drive"
change through the system by being a tough manager, awarding merit pay
to teachers and principals, closing struggling schools, and opening new
schools and charter schools, all the while using data as his guide. He
believes that the schools he oversees are like a stock portfolio; it is
his job not to fix them but to pick winners and losers. The winners get
extra money, and the losers are thrown out of the portfolio. When
addressing the business community, he speaks proudly of his plan to
give maximum autonomy to school principals, thus absolving himself of
any responsibility for the performance of the schools, and then sits
back to manage his portfolio. If a school fails, he is fast to close
it. The failure is not his fault, but the fault of the principal and
the teachers."

I guess what we can do is hope this is a short-lived stage, an awkward developmental phase, a time when things went badly off-track.  We'll look back later, shake our heads, and wonder why THAT was the overall plan, a strategy that wouldn't even work for a profit-seeking puppy mill.  Oops--left out a few things:  the importance of long-term relationships, development of the sense of wonder, time for play, healthy and varied diets, lack of threat, meaningful engagement in the knowledge-hunting process.

It's interesting to be in a graduate program for educational leadership, but a little scary, too.  I, the older one in the bunch, am viewed as the radical, the innovator, the one who's pretty far out.  Isn't it supposed to be the young people who are open-minded, inventive, and idealistic?   I'm seeing that many of our upcoming educational leaders have had those qualities drilled right out of them.  

Tags: Bridging+Differences, Ravitch, business, factory+model, reform

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A song comes to mind, "Where have all the flowers gone?" New lyrics: "Where have all the idealists gone... long time passing..."
I am about to graduate with my CAGS in leadership...if I had read and believed this prior to embarking on my journey, I may have purchased a new vehicle or taken a memorable vacation instead. I read this with sadness, because it is all to pervasive as a leadership style in a venue that, by its very nature, should condem such workmanship. I suppose that it might even be an effective style, if the payscale attracted a larger base from which the "worker-bees" would be chosen and maybe even flourish. As that is not the case, it simply becomes a case of he Emperor's New Clothes, or rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic...
Ah, but Kathryn, you can be a contrast example - and we need them - passionate, committed, courageous, and with solid life experience. By all means be sad - but do not be discouraged!
(The fact that others are missing what I can see doesn't damage my vision! Nor yours?)

And, BTW, it's lovely to hear you again!
Hi Kathryn and Ian,

Funny, on the way to school this morning I was thinking about leadership, realizing something I should have understood long ago. (My rose-colored glasses prevent me from seeing everything I should.) I was looking back over my educational career and noticing that a typical strategy for insecure leaders is to choose wallflower or weak subordinates. I know, "big duh" as my children might say, "Are you just getting that now?" But I see it in a new light, and think I can actually gain some wisdom from the realization at this time.

It seems to me that strong leaders select a diverse midlevel admin group so that questions are constantly arising. They promote discussion and dialog in order to run a check on themselves. They nurture loyalty and support by building ownership and direct involvement in what's going on; they increase participation in decision-making. Oh, guess I'm sounding like Senge here: distributed leadership, systems perspective. Or like Deborah Meier with her heartfelt (soulfelt?) belief in democratic decision-making processes.

This morning my summary to myself: strong leaders are visionaries, not accountants.
Strong leaders are visionaries...we must hold tight to this and push forward for a new crop of leaders, like you Connie, that embrace this...

The psychology of fear seems to be all over schools these days. Maybe it's the side of effect of this type of leadership...especially so focused on the data.

It seems like education is always too polarized. When are we going to strive for more of a balance? Yeah, data can be powerful. But, let's look at it in context of the whole picture.

Thankfully, I currently have a leadership team at my school that focuses on dialogue, questioning, and problem-solving. Their process is filtering out to classrooms, and it is such a breath of fresh air.

I have such high hopes that the NCLB legislation is going to be adminded so that this type of leadership...the one mentioned in the article...finds itself on the way out.
Hmm, MEG - "so focussed on the data" you say above. But 'they' aren't focussed on the data. They're focussed on some data. (And think they're measuring the whole!)
My challenge - provide reasonable data, and continue beyond it to reasonable education and responsible, even rewarding, learning. And say when and where I can that what can be counted isn't the only thing that counts. (Some things, said Wittgenstein, can only be shown and not said.)
Amen to what you said...especially the what can be counted isn't the only thing that counts part.

The only data seems to be test scores...whatever happened to the love of learning?...the thrill of understanding something new?...even the thrill of watching your students learn something new...something they've "taught" themselves?

Thanks for stating that so wonderfully, Ian!
Sorry, that was too good not to quote :-)
Hi All... hope this finds you all well and great thread.

School cultures can not be changed from with-out; they must be changed
from with-in.” (Roland Barth, 2001)

Effective leaders put words to the formless longings and deeply felt needs
of others.” (Warren Bennis)

Community building must become the heart of any school improvement effort.”
(Thomas Sergiovani)

“ In our rush to reform education, we have forgotten a simple truth:
reform will never be achieved by appropriations, restructuring schools, rewriting curricula, and revising texts if we continue to demean and dishearten the human resource called the teacher on whom so much depends.” (Parker Palmer)

My lighthouse leadership quote........


be well.....mike
Indeed, Mike, and thanks for the pertinent quotes.

I was just talking to someone yesterday about this topic: the young people I go to school with (getting another masters, this time in Ed Leadership) are viewing things in an entirely different way than I'd expect. They are not challenging the system, but embracing it. Oh, I'm way overgeneralizing, it's not true of everyone, but it is true of most. They're obedient, absorbing, unquestioning. "Just tell me what to do and how," they're saying.

When I bring this up (as I've been known to do now and then) a kind of heavy hangdog air comes over the class, then silence. But a couple of young adults will take me on, get a little spark in their eyes, and ask questions with a pleading tone: "How do you open things up in education?"

We should be studying the leaders you mention above, Mike. Senge is also useful. Have we compiled a list of writers on educational leadership somewhere? If not, maybe that'd be a good forum. I'd like especially to talk about leaders who are skilled in distributing leadership. (That's what I think it's about in my upper elementary class--and that's what should be going on at all levels of a school. Who would be good to read on that idea?)


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