kitchen table math, the sequel: against initiatives, too

Friday, January 8, 2010

against initiatives, too

Speaking of schools teaching strategies instead of knowledge (alert E.D. Hirsch!), an approach that requires fantastic levels of goal-mongering and running-record-keeping, I also stand foursquare against the obsessive "rolling-out" of "initiatives."

Take my district. (Please.)

Last year, not long after the crash, the monthly Superintendent's Letter included the following observation:
Excitement abounds throughout the district over recent and upcoming initiatives.
Jobs were disappearing, housing values were cratering, but in the high-flying world of our schools superintendent excitement was abounding. Excitement over initiatives.

Come to find out, there is a name for districts like mine:
Too often, the measure of success in schools has been the number of activities and innovations going on. Bryk, Sebring, Kerbow, Rollow, and Easton (1998) call schools like these "Christmas tree schools," a phrase they coined to describe schools undergoing school improvement where activity per se had run amok: "There were many new programs--not just a few--and a great deal of activity and hoopla surrounded them. Some of these new initiatives may have some real strength and integrity. But because they do not cohere as a group and may even conflict, their impact is minimal at best, and potentially negative" .... In the absence of a single-minded academic focus, educators are easy targets for the "innovation du jour," seldom finishing anything they start. The dean of American basketball coaches, John Wooden (1997), gave his playeres this advice, which is admirably suited for educators in Christmas tree schools: "Do not mistake activity for achievement."

10 Traits of Highly Effective School: Raising the Achievement Bar for All Students, p. 53 by Elaine K. McEwan
Guided reading and the workshop model: activity mistaken for achievement.


concernedCTparent said...

Christmas tree schools. Oh my, how very, very apt. I love it and will be using it often.

Thank you and happy new year!

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