Tag Archives: Mission Driven

Why We Need To Change Our Schools – Bea McGarvey

I don’t know about you, but on the one hand I see our schools working and on the other I don’t.  

I see a ton of kids who show up every day, do their work, get good grades, graduate, go on to college.  But I also see the kids who show up half the time, do little work, might graduate (but barely) or just choose to drop out. Anyone who knows my work knows that I’m trying to create educational programs that work for this second group of kids.  But it’s also no wonder that so many folks look at the first group and decide that schools are working and wonder why the second group can’t “get it together”…

So the question seems to be are schools working or not?

I know Auburn (and other districts) have decided that our schools aren’t working.  Where others see our schools working for 70% of the kids, we see our schools not working for 30%. We want our schools to work for all our children (or at least a whole heck of a lot more than they are now).

We’re looking for help from several areas, including: customized learning and Maine’s new Cohort for Customized Learning, Reinventing Schools Coalition training, and ideas from a variety of books, including Inevitable.

On Monday, January 23rd, Inevitable‘s co-author, Bea McGarvey spend the day in Auburn.  It was our workshop day, and she conducted two workshops with our teachers: the morning with the middle and high school staffs, and the afternoon with the elementary school staffs.  That evening she also led a community event focused on why we need to change our schools (you can watch a streaming video of the evening event – sorry, requires Flash).

One of the big aha’s for me was finally having a clear understanding of why things both seem to work and not work…

Bea shared that throughout her work with schools on how to change, she would have some teachers come up and ask, why do we need to fix schools if they seem to be working?

After really chewing over the question, Bea finally seemed to know the reason: schools aren’t broken.  They work great.  They do very well at what they were designed for.  The problem is that that goal has chanced.

During the industrial age, schools’ goal was to sort out talent and make the rest compliant.  We got really good at that.  But for this economy, the goal needs to be to develop talent in every child. That’s why we’re so frustrated: we’re trying to meet one goal with a tool that was designed for another.  (Bea says about this change of goals and the mismatch between the system and the goal: you can be cranky about this, but if this makes you really cranky, then you just have to leave education and do something else.)

This mismatch between our goal and our system made me think about how different the strategies are for each.  No wonder we’re “insane” – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…

But I think even once we understand the need to change our schools, it makes us educators crazy in another way. 

It doesn’t matter how much we agree with the burning platform that our schools need to work for all our children, or how well we understand that the root problem is how our goals have changed and it isn’t “the teachers’ fault” (Bea says, according to Deming: 95% of the problems are not with the people; they are with the structure), the fact is, at some point teachers understand that they are good at a system designed for an old goal, and that they might not know how to do the system for the new goal…

And why wouldn’t this scare teachers whitless?

But being difficult isn’t a reason not to do the right thing.

And this is why Bea McGarvey says teachers need to get good at problem solving thinking and invention thinking. And it’s why “PD for Paradigm Shift” is one of the components of the Lead4Change model.  Teachers deserve to be supported, trained, and involved in the problem solving and invention needed to help our schools get good at our new goal.


It’s Your Turn:

How are you and your school working to develop the talent of all students?

Schools Trying to Solve Challenges Creatively – My testimony on LD 938

Tough times for schools (not even counting the current anti-labor climate). Budget cuts. Struggling to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates. Under-motivated students.

Some schools are trying to work on some of those challenges creatively. What if we could make some interesting educational opportunities for our students by recruiting some out of state students or foreign students to participate in our online learning programs while bringing a revenue stream into the district?

That’s the idea behind Maine LD 938 An Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students.

Today, I testified to the Education Committee at the State House. Below Re my comments.

Hello. My name is Dr. Mike Muir. I am the director of Maine’s virtual project-based program for at-risk and dropout youth, and soon will be Auburn School District’s Multiple Pathways Leader, responsible for working with staff to find ways to better engage students and customize learning opportunities. I am also Director of UMF’s Maine Center for Meaningful Engaged Learning.

We live in interesting times.

If we start by looking at the student context, what probably jumps out at us first is the degree to which technology is integrated into students lives, and how technology impacts how they do their everyday work, learning, and socializing. Educators are struggling to catch up with young people so that we can teach in ways that match the world they live in outside of school. Many students “power down” to come to school, and even though we have technology in the schools and are using it in our classes, our struggle is trying to figure out how students use their technology so that we can avoid that potential problem of becoming irrelevant in the eyes of these young people.

Technology also opens up the world to students. We can give them virtual field trips, and they explore the country and the world on their own. They make friends the whole world over. Even a student who has never been south of Portland can get a feel for the world beyond their home in a way our contemporaries who never traveled south of Portland never could.

And in these interesting times, educators have a better understanding of how students learn. We understand that students learn at different times, at different rates, and in different ways. Education has had a system that forces everyone to learn the same thing, at the same time, and at the same pace for so long, that it is a challenge for us to uncover how to become flexible, and better meet the needs of students (including, of course, through online learning opportunities).

In terms of interesting times in the school context, there is enormous pressure to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates. We have a system that has always worked well for a portion of our student population (even a large portion), but for only a portion. That may have been fine when there were plenty of jobs for people without a high school diploma, or even a college degree, but not today. Educators realize that we need to develop ways of reaching other students.

All this within the context of enormous budget cuts. We have had repeated years of huge budget cuts, followed mid year by one or more curtailments. Schools are struggling to do more with less.

In the context of the economy and job market we also live in interesting times. Jobs are changing and employers are looking for students to be educated for different skills. At least one small part of Proctor and Gamble calls Auburn home. One of their employees recently told school officials that they are hiring differently than they ever have before, and that they have much better luck hiring outside the US than they do in the US. That’s because US schools train students to know facts or have skills, for example, to be an electrician. But Proctor and Gamble doesn’t want to hire electricians. They want to hire someone who can learn to be an electrician to accomplish that one project, and then can learn to be something else for the next project.

In the past, it may have seemed that schools have had what they needed. But that wasn’t at a time when schools needed to be successful with more students, when students are different, the job market is different, and there is less and less money to make big changes and accomplish more goals.

For the first time educators are forced into trying to be entrepreneurial in several ways:
• Inventing ways of reaching more learners:
• Inventing ways to teach the skills employers want;
• Inventing ways of teaching so that they more students can succeed;
• Inventing ways to overcome budget cuts.

This Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students is one way the State can support schools being entrepreneurial:
• It provides students the benefit of enriched learning experiences, interacting with students from across the country and around the world.
• It provides schools the opportunity to try to recoup funding lost in numerous cutbacks and budget cuts.
• It removes an unfair competitive advantage that private schools have had, having been able to recruit and charge nonresident students for years.

This bill has several vital components:
• It allows schools to charge tuition to out-of-state students, similar to how the law currently allows schools to charge tuition to out-of-district students.
• It allows entrepreneurial schools to use the funds in an entrepreneurial fashion by not counting it again state funding for residential students.
• It allows the direct contact to students to be a learning coach working under a certified teacher, instead of requiring only a certified teacher, since most of the work is learning progress management, not curricular design.

So I implore you to please consider recommending and passing An Act To Permit Public School Online Learning Programs To Accept Nonresident Tuition Students. Thank you.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad