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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tangled School Systems

Today at #edcamp Malden I heard stories of tangled school systems which made me wonder how much better schools would be if they were untangled.

What kinds of entanglement did I hear about?

I heard stories of opportunity gained and opportunity lost. In some circumstances, highly qualified individuals did not get a chance to rise up or lead while less qualified individuals were given the reigns.

In some situations, so much time was spent on organization and scheduling that there was little time left to work with children and teach.

Still more pointed to professional learning opportunities which were not targeted or beneficial.

And  some conversations pointed to passion lost since there was no support for a teacher's passionate interests, talents, and skills.

Then there were stories of special jobs made for special people, jobs that paid extra and had other perks too.

Could it be that the biggest problem in education is that we don't organize our systems well enough to meet the potential possible.

If that's the case, what can we do to remedy this problem.

I think it's important to look at systems ground up, rather than top down to see what's happening. Questions like these can help:

Do students have the up-to-date resources they need to learn? In today's world every child should have access to a quality tech device, an adequate, welcoming, comfortable learning environment, and plenty of time with top quality instruction and learning experiences.

Do school systems have the kind of infrastructure that can support its tools, resources, and expectations? It seems like many systems still don't have the kind of technology and infrastructure that support optimal, timely teaching and learning.

Are professionals well matched for their positions, and is there an effort to grow professionals from within with equity, opportunity, and respect?

Are most professionals spending most of their time on-task with student learning and support? What systems are now outdated in this regard and what new systems will invigorate quality service to students?

Is there adequate time for professionals to plan and prepare high quality learning experiences?

Is there equity in roles or are some roles "easier" than others? Can we quantify that?

Is there too much red tape and not enough streamlined, transparent systems? When professionals in an organization are well versed in the organization's goals, interests, change, and vision, then there's greater potential for better performance.

Is communication inclusive and transparent? Does everyone have a good understanding of what's happened, what will happen, and what's possible? How are ideas, questions, and interest from within the system entertained, shared, and acted upon?

Are high quality professional learning experiences supported?

Is there a culture of trust, honesty, and openness?

I believe all public schools have the potential to be excellent institutions of education if we look seriously at what is working and what is not. I believe these systems profit from honest, invested, open, and caring professionals at all levels of the organization. I believe a diverse staff that represents many different viewpoints and experiences supports a high quality system.

I think it's important that systems seek to untangle what's not working and replace those less sturdy systems with streamlined, fair, inclusive systems of support and service--the kinds of systems that help every learner achieve.