"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 alawyer, he is steeped in a business mindset. He wants results. Hesurrounds himself with business school graduates, lawyers, marketingconsultants, and public relations staff. He focuses on management,organization, budgeting, and data-driven decision-making. He showslittle or no interest in curriculum and instruction, about which heknows very little. He is certain that the way to reform the schools isto "incent" the workforce. He believes that accountability, withrewards and sanctions, makes the world go round. He plans to "drive"change through the system by being a tough manager, awarding merit payto teachers and principals, closing struggling schools, and opening newschools and charter schools, all the while using data as his guide. Hebelieves that the schools he oversees are like a stock portfolio; it ishis job not to fix them but to pick winners and losers. The winners getextra money, and the losers are thrown out of the portfolio. Whenaddressing the business community, he speaks proudly of his plan togive maximum autonomy to school principals, thus absolving himself ofany responsibility for the performance of the schools, and then sitsback to manage his portfolio. If a school fails, he is fast to closeit. The failure is not his fault, but the fault of the principal andthe 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.