Managing Change: Can the Department Move from Paramilitary Institutions to Learning Organizations? Is Collaboration in the Air?

 Psychologists and sociologists have written tomes about personal and organizational change. Tomes that were ignored by the Bloomberg-Klein administration.

 A death of a loved one, the breakup of a relationship, the loss of a job, excessing or changes in teaching method ordered by your principal are stressful.
One expert writes,
A review of literature on change strategies and a learning culture suggests that individuals are more likely to have higher levels of readiness for organizational change when (a) they experience normative-reeducative change strategies and when (b) they perceive their work environment to have the characteristics associated with a learning culture.
In other words, participation reduces resistance.
Peter Senge has written extensively about creating learning organizations,
organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.
Rather than creating learning organization the Board of Education and the successor Department of Education acted like a paramilitary organization. The general orders, the colonels and majors and captains and sergeants salute and mindlessly order their underlings to carry out the “orders,” and the privates in the foxholes salute, close their doors and do what they have always done.
Principals know that you do what you have to do to get an “A” or a “B” on your School Progress Report. Test prep dominates in too many elementary and middle schools and getting a 65 on Regents exams and collecting credits in the high schools. The State Education Department has been cooperating by “dumbing down” the ELA and Math exams as well as the Regents exams. Getting 35% of the questions correct on the Algebra Regents earns a kid a 65, a passing grade although the kid is grossly unprepared for the next course. The English Regents has just changed from a two-day, three hours each day, four essay exam to a single day exam. Pass rates escalated sharply.
While budget cuts, ending seniority-based layoff laws, grading teachers based on pupil progress, an incredibly complex teacher evaluation law, ending the January Regents have dominated the headlines and the talk in teacher lounges, the new Walcott-Suransky Department has been quietly moving to implement Common Core standards.
Next school year the Department will begin to aggressively move to change instruction in each and every classroom and dramatically change the role and function of school principals, a three year plan to fully base classroom instruction and pupil assessment on the Common Core.
The current Department leadership is trying to turn around a deeply flawed system, trying to involve teachers in the teaching/learning process, trying to turn top-down paramilitary driven schools into learning organizations. Trying to convert principals from administrators to principal-teachers. To move principals from behind their desks into classrooms and lead teacher discussions about kids and instruction.
The Deputy Chancellor tells all principals,
 Our collective focus over the next school year will be on helping teachers across disciplines to improve the work students do every day—such as teaching students to read and analyze non-fiction texts and to use math to solve complex real-world problems. In some of our classrooms, this work will be new. In many others, rich instructional work of many different kinds is already underway. But all of us can connect to the goal of strengthening student work—and I encourage you to take some time to consider these expectations in the context of your school’s instructional work. How will your teachers connect with these expectations? How does your work support these priorities?

 The tone is quite apart from the ukases from the earlier Tweed.

Changing instruction in classrooms is dependent on change agents, principals able to lead change.

Can principals,

Engage in short, frequent cycles of classroom observation, collaborative examination of student work, and timely, specific, evidence-based feedback teachers can act on to increase the rigor and effectiveness of their instruction (throughout 2011-12). Teachers should receive feedback on student work on Common Core-aligned tasks and on successes and challenges related to reaching all students, including students with disabilities and English language learners.

Strengthen their own capacity to provide high-quality feedback to teachers through professional development and support from network teams (throughout 2011-12).

  If layoffs slice off 4,000 teachers or the Teacher-Principal Evaluation Law dominates, if the Mayor continues to try to emasculate union leadership the plans for a new, more collaborative era of moving to learning organizations will be doomed before it begins.

 Perhaps, just perhaps, we are beginning to turn around the disastrous Klein oligarchy.

2 responses to “Managing Change: Can the Department Move from Paramilitary Institutions to Learning Organizations? Is Collaboration in the Air?

  1. Michael Fiorillo

    You made a the common error in naming the new standards: the correct name is the Microsoft-Pearson Standards.

    And just because teachers are being involved in late-stage, window-dressing before their implementation does not mean that the endless testing that is their essence will not be used as weapons against teachers and public schools. As any warden will tell you, while you can’t run a prison without the cooperation of the inmates, that doesn’t mean they have any power or autonomy.


  2. So who will do everything that a principal was doing up til now?

    Eventually every school will be using a centralized Childrens first Network(CFN) or simply “The Network”. Which allows for the board to send in experts to evaluate your lessons, bullitin boards, ect. Since they are not administrators they have more flexability(less controls) than a principal. They collect reams of data and are consulted by principals come rating time. But they are not administrators…many teachers dont even know they are in a Network…so there is no way for the union or individual teachers to hold the Network responsible for their contributions to decitions made at the school leavle. Ask your union rep. about your Network, see if they even are aware of these highly intrusive and influential groups. Can they name the network leader?


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