Necessary But Not Sufficient

The Tenessean has a good article on Nashville’s attempt to turn around a handful of struggling schools.  The public is focused on massive changes in the schools’ instructional staffs, because that’s the most politically challenging part of turnaround (and the most visible to boot).  I hope this is only one part of the change:

“Hiring new teachers isn’t enough to transform a struggling school, Cohen said. Schools also need effective leaders and must learn to respond to the challenges students face outside the classroom.

‘Transformational leadership is something extremely difficult to do,’ Cohen said. ‘Even principals who are outstanding can be completely eaten alive by a failing school, because it is a different job.'”

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One Response to Necessary But Not Sufficient

  1. Kathleen M. Smith says:

    There is a context that is missing from many of the articles that discuss how a process like the one in Nashville is either successful or not successful. Schools are micro-environments and are embedded in a larger macro-environment, the district, which is embedded in the mega-enviornoment, the community. If we are talking about sytems change, we need not forget the context of all three environments as one mega-system. That context provides many input variables that can make the reform in the micro-context successful or not successful. For example, if the initiative is not district mandated, but state mandated, it creates another set of pressures that can negatively or positively change the political will of the community to support the endeavor. In many cases, we fail to keep in mind that the system is a closed system, not lending itself to outsiders. We can’t drop in a mandated turnaround specialist from outside of the system, nor can we drop in a mandated lead turnaround partner from outside of the system to change the system. A closed system is not open to that kind of change. A closed system can be changed, but it may require a different set of levers for change. We can build the political will and support of the community and of the district and of the school if we lever partners to ensure that improvement is really the result of the will of those inside the system to do what is best for their own children. In addition, we need to remember that the goal of the lead partner should be to build the capacity of the mega- system to support its own efforts to serve their children. The lead partner should not take credit for the results, but be willing to give the results and the credit to the system as a whole.

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