Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools: Its Children Lost NYT 9/5/17
“Whatever level of human capital schools acquire through hiring can subsequently be developed through activities such as grade-level or subject-based teams of teachers, faculty committees, professional development, coaching, evaluation, and informal interactions. As teachers join together to solve problems and learn from one another, the school’s instructional capacity becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”1
This quote from Harvard professor Susan Moore Johnson may make perfect sense to you. Our systems and organizations, however, are largely structured around individual values. As such, a primary goal is to optimize and reward performance at the individual level. So, while some of us (perhaps many of us) might agree that a team’s capacity can exceed the sum of individual members’ capacity, we generally have a difficult time translating that knowledge into action—for example, rewarding individual behaviors that enhance team dynamics. Part of the problem is that there’s still a lot to learn about how teamwork and collaboration are effectively nurtured.
–Esther Quintero https://www.aft.org/ae/summer2017/quintero
This LA Times op-ed by Harold Meyerson explores the confusing politics of the big-money charter supporters on both the left and right and concludes:
“Charter billionaires have settled on a diagnosis, and a cure, that focuses on the deficiencies of the system’s victims, not the system itself.”
“We often mistake symptoms for causes. This has been especially true in the realm of education policy: underperforming schools underperform because of insufficient accountability, the prevailing argument has gone. And we’ve only made things worse by tightening the screws . . . With the focus on test results pushed by state officials and for-profit school management advocates in the 1990s and reinforced thereafter by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 and Race to the Top (RTTT) in 2009, our misguided efforts have intensified.” P. 302 Samuel E. Abrams Education and the Commercial Mindset 2016
“Public education policy these days is trapped in behaviorist thinking about rewards and punishments.” –Jan Resseser, November 1, 2016
Public education is caught in a vise that allows for almost no meaningful innovation. The problems facing public education can’t be solved by mandated “reforms” for increased accountability, doubling down on an inputs/outputs model that has never fit the system of public education, or letting for-profit entities with their top-heavy executive salaries and management fees take over failing and cash-strapped public schools. Where do the best ideas for improving public education come from?
What many policymakers have been unable to recognize is that education is a complex adaptive system (CAS). Complex adaptive systems are extraordinarily resistant to bureaucratic mandates and top-down control. Like ecosystems, they respond to external pressures in unpredictable or even undesirable ways. But unlike purely biological complex adaptive systems such human systems have the element of intelligence that can attend to small changes that make large impacts. Such small changes at the most fundamental levels of the system can unleash processes that result in largescale system improvements.