This E-Hint is related to the last issue, “How Can School Officials Respond to Critics of the CCSS?” It offers comments about our early 21st Century era in which the media are full of stories about how to improve the quality of America’s schools. Those stories are typically based on opinions and actions taken by governmental and bureaucratic activists who believe they know how student learning can be improved. Recommendations and observations of the most visible and vociferous non-educators cover the extremes of every attitudinal spectrum. Here are examples of extreme assertions issued by people on each end of that spectrum:
Compared to 50 years ago, today’s schools receive an inordinate amount of attention from government and industry at both the state and national levels. At one time the public education system in this nation was funded and operated locally, with community residents and citizens actively involved in making what they considered to be good decisions and taking appropriate actions. Now, American kindergarten through grade 12 education programs are scrutinized, analyzed, and manipulated by members of the U.S. Congress, state governors, state legislators, and even the president of the United States. Then, there are those in the private sector who also convey their notions using personal wealth to ensure they are noticed.
Impact on American Schools and the People Who Work in Them
As one might expect, professional educators who work in the American educational community are frequently confused and dismayed with the controversy swirling around them. Every time they pick up a newspaper or check news items online and in the electronic media, they see something about what is needed to “fix America’s failing schools.” Like many other issues in today’s world, the assertions are often a product of polarized thinking and belief systems.
In many districts there are no effective organizational structures that insulate teachers and administrators from the maelstrom of criticism and sometimes malevolent commentary. Nor are there processes that help employees process the next initiative of a politician or legislative body in suggesting new laws or policy mandates.
Are educators demoralized by all of this or have they simply become numb? It doesn’t matter much because either condition results in professional men and women trying their best to serve students even if the system in which they work must lurch from one initiative to another to satisfy outside critics and questionable reform movements. What does matter in this chaotic education environment is that those men and women are unable to achieve professional viability, thereby slowly dismantling in their minds the idea that they really make a difference individually and collectively.
CLI Creates a More Positive Working Environment in Public Schools
There are many organizations that help American public schools improve curriculum, instruction, and the preparation for student assessment. The Curriculum Leadership Institute is one of them. However, the foundation of the CLI Model has been and continues to be academic program governance. In other words, CLI has always advocated that no improvement process can be effective over time if school districts make decisions and take action using traditional methods for managing curriculum and instruction. Unfortunately, few others share CLI’s intense focus on organizational culture using the body of knowledge offered by systems advocates like Michael Fullan, William Edwards Deming, Peter Senge, Edgar Schein, Abraham Maslow, and others who have studied the behaviors of human beings within groups.
So, the next time someone asks the purpose of an inclusive district curriculum coordinating council within the CLI Model, they can be told it is a forum for understanding the chaotic world around them, making decisions that keep the district on a course that best serves students, and taking actions that carefully align with those decisions. It isn’t meant to insulate educators from the controversies raging in the state and nation, but it does offer district stakeholders an opportunity to create a sensible and logical environment for helping teachers support quality student learning.