Wrong Drivers

Our NY Stated accountability scores in ELA and Math were published this summer.  I can’t say I am proud of the scores, but I can say, that I am proud of what my teachers and students did to get to where we are now as a school.  Basically, I think our school followed the state norms, raised our scores in Math, but stayed static in ELA.  I am thankful that we didn’t go down in our ELA scores at the 3-5 level.  As a district, we didn’t fair too well in our 3-8 test scores with proficiency.  But, my question is, what does it mean?  Is it that our kids can’t read?  Does it mean that they can’t test as 3rd, 4th and 5th graders?  Are we not “test prepping” enough?  We follow the curriculum, we revamped our teaching style and we use data to drive instruction, but even still, in NY State, we do not grow in our ELA proficiency scores.  Hmm….

As a building principal, as I maneuver through the educational reform agenda and lead my staff, I question why we are placing so much emphasis on accountability rather than creating capacity and professional capital in our staff.  Is it about proficiency, how many kids you can get in level 3 and 4, or is it about growth?  I feel that we have a double system going on here.  We worry that we don’t have enough students hitting the mark in proficiency scores, but we get growth scores from the state.   I am all for assessing our students, standards, et. al., but I need some clearer understanding, is it about proficiency or is it about growth?  Or both?  Isn’t it nerving that schools get growth scores that are 17 or 18 and don’t hit the mark of proficiency?  What does it all mean?

Peter DeWitt published in his blog here whether increased accountability works.  He sites Michael Fullan’s work and that wrong drivers are driving what is happening in education reform.  I think Fullan is on to something, and below is brief outline  of what he is talking about.

Wrong vs. Right Drivers

Michael Fullan published a document, Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform for a symposium in Australia.  He also published many books such as Professional Capital:  Transforming Teaching in Every School with Andy Hargreaves and the latest, The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact.  (The links are documents that have been used in presentations or journal submissions about the book(s).  In both books, Fullan and Hargreaves discuss Wrong vs. Right Drivers that impact reform agendas.  They claim that the wrong drivers can be used, but have to be offset by the right drivers.  Unfortunately, in reform agendas in the US, UK and Australia, the wrong drivers are pronounced more than the right drivers.  So, what are the wrong drivers?

  1. Focusing on accountability vs capacity building.  It’s about people, not “sticks and carrot.”  Develop your people, not punish them with testing. It’s not about the test or the standards, it is how they are being used.
  2. Individual Quality vs Group Quality.  This is about developing the entire system, not one teacher here, one teacher there, one leader here, another there.  It kind of ties in with the accountability above.  Work on raising the bar for all and then get in and work together.  This is where PLCs come in and developing high social and human capital.  It is the belief that we are in this together, not competing against each other.  We help each other as a group to be the best.  Move together, grow together, help each other.  Trust building.
  3. Technology vs instruction.  This is the belief technology is not the end all be all, it is about instruction – how will we use technology to enhance instruction.  Technology will never trump good teaching.  It will only enhance it and good teachers know their craft and how to teach.  It is about pedagogy.
  4. Fragmented vs. systemic.  This means to have a systemic approach, attainable and that all drivers, capacity building, group work, and instruction are all working together.

This makes sense to me.  As a leader, I find that I have to balance this because I believe we are heavily balance to wrong drivers than right drivers.  Fullan does state that there are areas that we do need to use wrong drivers, but the gist is that countries such as the US have focused to heavily on them whereas countries who are successful have a balance.

Take the time to read the document, Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole System Reform.  I am sure it will open up some thought to how we are leading our schools, our states as well as our country.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll take a visit over the boarder sooner than later and visit some Canadian schools to see what is happening.  Heck, maybe Dr. Fullan will help us out in New York!  I hope so!

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  1. Wrong Drivers | The East Side Monday Focus

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