Monday, March 10, 2008

Management by Fad

When United States manufacturing companies were getting their collective butts kicked by Japan in the late 70’s early 80’s, they started grasping for straws. They would try anything new to get their edge back and the string of different techniques they tried became known as management by fad. Many of these fads were actually sound ideas. However, when companies went to implement the latest fad, they neglected to properly train staff which created lousy execution.

Fast forward to today where K-12 education is getting their collective butts kicked in the world arena and here we go again: management by fad. Schools are trying anything, as long as it is new, to improve education. Since results are hard (and costly) to measure, we just go forward with things that sound like they should work. And what is usually lacking is proper training which is creating lousy execution.

Technology is big – we are trying to use the the latest technology but we really don’t have any knowledge of how to use that technology to improve education results. So we spend a lot of money and have smart boards and laptops in classrooms – but not a lot training and knowledge for teachers on their use and how it can impact achievement.

Block scheduling - intuitively obvious that it would work but we have no real data and now we read that schools are questioning the unintended consequences of this approach. Having gone through this with both my kids, I often wonder if this is better or worse as it seems better for classes with long set up and clean up (chemistry, art, shop, band, PE), but worse for history, English and math where it might be better for daily classes. Once again, it appears that more training and better execution would create improved results.

Our teachers need better training on how to use the new programs – not just new programs - and we need to find something to measure effectiveness lest we continue to dart in and out of programs without any real long term direction.

Note that in the previous post, the world’s best schools don’t have one way of doing things. They have great teachers who receive great training in delivering great instruction. Buying laptops and moving to block scheduling cannot make up for problems in those areas.

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