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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Take A Chance

I've been reading Pour Your Heart Into It, by Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks. There are a number of very interesting ideas throughout the book that chronicles the emergence of Starbucks, from a small chain of four local coffee stores in Seattle, to a status in our culture where the shops are ubiquitous. However, one statement by Schultz in particular attracted my attention and found its way into my collection of inspirational quotes that help me maintain my own compass points.

"If you say you never had a chance, perhaps you never took a chance."

Those words reminded me of when my son played varsity basketball in high school. He enjoyed the sport very much but despite his commitment and desire he spent more time seated on the bench than playing in the game. Nonetheless, he worked hard each day in practice and prepared for any opportunity he might have to enter the game. Eventually he appeared on the court more and more. However, I noticed that although he was an active contributor in the game, bringing a spark of energy to the team with his passionate effort, he rarely attempted any shots.

After a game one night he confided his fears that if he tried a field goal and missed his coach would pull him from the action and he would once again be exiled to the bench. He relished playing and was averse to doing something that would deprive him of remaining in the game.

It was disappointing to hear that his coach might exercise such an unforgiving attitude toward the reserve players to the degree that they were hesitant and anxious about taking risks. I seized on the chance to share a quote from hockey great Wayne Gretzky that was so relevant. Gretzky scored more goals than anyone else in professional hockey. He once said, "You miss every shot you don't take." I went on to explain that at one point in time Babe Ruth simultaneously held the baseball record for most strikeouts as well as the record for most home runs. Similarly, there have been few players in the history of the National  Basketball Association who have been considered better than former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan. Yet, there are even fewer players who have ever missed as many shot attempts as Jordan.

I imagine there are a lot of people who allow worries and insecurities to inhibit their possibilities. The fear of missing a shot has prevented many people from experiencing the joy of making a shot, at the basketball hoop or at life. It's sad to consider the loss when one surrenders ambition and desire to fear.

There is a story about the remarkable magician, Harry Houdini (though I don't know whether it's true or apocryphal). It seems that Houdini would attract publicity by boasting that he was able of breaking out of any jail cell. His challenge was accepted by numerous towns interested in making a name for themselves by proving him wrong. Houdini successfully escaped the confines of all jail cells by using a lock pick he had secreted in his possession when he entered each cell. And then, he was finally stumped in the unlikeliest of places, by a jail in a small village in Ireland. No matter what he tried he was unable to break out of the cell. Frustrated and tired he gave up and leaned against the door, only to fall out of the cell. The clever Irish guards had simply never locked the door. Houdini was trying to pick a lock that wasn't locked - except in his own mind.

I'm glad to say that my son persevered and discovered success, not only in basketball but many other ventures, with increased confidence and trust in his potential. Just think of the gain in human capital that could be realized if more and more people overcame fears and stopped complaining of never having a chance and instead took a chance in the form of a calculated risk or a peek around the corner.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Postponing Dreams

Let's begin tonight's Blog on Postponing Dreams with a quote from T.E. Lawrence, more commonly known as Lawrence of Arabia.
"Those who dream by night in the
dusty recesses of their minds
Awake to find that all was vanity;
But the dreamers of day are dangerous men,
That they may act their dreams with open
eyes to make it possible."
T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia)

Last year approximately 7,000 teachers were laid off throughout the state of New York. Last year the colleges in the state of New York produced 17,000 graduates certified to teach.

That means 7,000 teachers suddenly had their lives upended, their livelihoods pulled out from under them, and their dreams postponed - perhaps extinguished. That also means that 17,000 freshly minted college graduates will have to search outside the field of education for a job, since the weak national economy has extended its tight grip around every state and caused budget cuts all over.

Back to the quote from T.E. Lawrence.

Perhaps we, educators and those who value the meaning and promise of education, should start dreaming during the day rather than during the night.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Predicting Rain or Building Arks

This is an excerpt from a manuscript on school improvement that I have completed, but not yet submitted for consideration by any publishing house.


Predicting Rain vs. Building an Ark

     Louis Gerstner, former CEO of IBM expressed his view on reforming public education as follows, “To turn our public schools around we need to adopt that legendary Noah principle: No more prizes for predicting rain. Prizes only for building arks.”(Gerstner, ) Educators have been consumed with wrestling with everything that can be measured in an effort to “predict rain.” It’s time to invest in building arks. The authors of Built to Last put it this way, “… visionary companies tend to be clock builders, not time tellers.”(Collins and Poras, 23)

On a Journey in Search of the Right Data

     Thus far we have talked about vision and mission. Now we begin the process of how we expect to get to our desired state. It’s not unlike the safe way to plan a vacation. Such a time for enjoyment should not be left to chance.

     First, when planning your vacation, determine what your mission is. Do you want to relax, visit family and friends, attempt a challenge, learn something,…? Now, create a vision and imagine where you can best experience this activity. Reaffirm where you want to go and why you wish to go there. This is especially important if others are accompanying you. Next, schedule the trip at a time that will maximize your experience. Then, assemble your data and make sure your resources will support the trip as a viable excursion.

    Collecting data assists in our journey. Napoleon once said, “Imagination rules the world.”(Maxims) That may be true, but without a careful plan you can experience a disappointing trip that borders on the agony Napoleon encountered on his ill fated expedition to Russia that met a chilly end during the infamous Russian winter.

     Appropriate data serves the same purpose as mile markers along the highway of a lengthy trip. It gives you a frame of reference regarding progress toward your goal. These benchmarks are reinforcing reminders of where we are, how far we’ve gone and how much longer we have to go.

     We often appear to exhaust our energy analyzing facts and figures in a journey that parallels the quest for the Holy Grail. Someone once described the misdirected optimist as a person who continues to dig through a large mound of horse manure in search of the pony that must be around somewhere. This pilgrimage to piles of paper serves to placate public skepticism or satiate the appetite of state education officials but may not lead to exposing patterns that will impact our business.

     Roy Rowan, author of The Intuitive Manager, claims that “Research is more of a confirmation tool than a discovery tool.”(Rowan, 97) Peter Drucker echoes this point in Managing the Non Profit Organization when he states, “Most of our current reporting systems don’t reveal opportunities, they report problems.”(Drucker, 13)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hit The Bullseye


     “If you don’t know where you’re going,

     any road will get you there.”

The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland


“A ship without a harbor has no ill wind.”(67)

The Philosopher, Seneca



     I’ve heard the following story, shared at a long ago conference, that speaks volumes on the subject of goals. Here it goes: A friend of mine was recently touring the back roads of New England. He is a rifle instructor with an ROTC marksmanship group. The sight of several targets covering the side of a large barn surprised him. Each target had a bright red bulls-eye as he rounded a curve in the road. And, smack dab in the center of each bulls eye was a bullet hole.

     His curiosity aroused, he pulled in the driveway and made his way to the farmhouse, intent upon receiving advice from the accomplished marksman responsible for all of the bull’s eyes. Certainly this information would help his students.

     An elderly man greeted his knock on the door. Brief introductions revealed that the old man was the sharpshooter. The man accepted my friend’s invitation for a demonstration.

     Moments later the farmer emerged from the house, grasping a rusty bucket in one hand, and an unimpressive, outdated rifle in the other. The man faced the barn, checked the wind, raised the gun, and blasted a shot. Then the elderly man sauntered over to the barn with his bucket and calmly painted a target around the bullet hole he had left in the side of the barn.

     “Works every time!” exclaimed the farmer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The "B" Word

It's that time.

I'm not using the term - "It's that time again," because for school leaders the "B" word, (budget) is a continuous activity rather than a single event. However, the general public often isolates the issue of budget and frames it in time between development and decision, which typically begins in earnest after the State Department of Education releases preliminary figures on aid and concludes throughout New York on the third Tuesday of May with the annual vote on the school district's operating budget.

Ideally, the budget represents a blueprint for the school system by establishing the parameters of operation for the system. The funding determines the scope and direction of efforts to meet the needs of our learners. It becomes a vehicle for the staff to exercise in quest for progressing toward its mission.

Normally, you prepare an overall strategy for allocating resources necessary to successfully address the instructional programs and experiences required to prepare graduates of the district for college, career, and citizenship (that's the mission of our school system). Once you have decided on the resources needed to promote successful goal attainment in terms of graduation rates, performance levels, and complying with state mandates, you total up the figures and arrive at an annual operating budget. I elected to use the word "normally" because the current status of funding education is anything but normal. The local, regional, state, and national economy is depressed and reaching a point of fatigue. The expectations of consumers has perhaps never been higher, and the available funding (accounting/adjusting for inflationary increments over time and unfunded state and federal mandates) has perhaps never been lower. The confluence of these factors, and other intervening issues, has imperiled schools across the country and impacted the future of countless learners.

Our district has passed through the phases of budget construction (or destruction, actually) in which programs and practices considered as "wants" have been eliminated from the budget or drastically reduced, and entered the stage in which we have engaged in a triage-like exercise of decreasing programs and practices considered as "needs." In the last three years the district has made significant reductions in teaching and administrative staff and instructional and extra-curricular programs. The task of choosing what to negatively impact now reminds me of the old silent, black and white movies (I'm really not that old) involving a steam powered railroad train running out of coal to fuel the engines and turning to stripping the train of anything that will burn in order to keep it going. The question is whether the train arrives at it's destination (and refueling point) before losing steam so it can once again take to the rails and continue in business.

That's the same question school districts all over are facing as budgets are being developed for the public to either affirm or reject.

The Green Island Union Free School District would benefit by the following proposals for consideration of those with their hands on the levers of power in Albany.

1. Immediate mandate relief, (there are a host of regulations already proposed by the State School
    Boards Association and the Council of State School Superintendents)
2. More equitable distribution of state funds to public schools based on the specific and unique
    economic needs of school districts as identified by their state determined Combined Wealth Ratio,
3. Reallocate the existing $250,000,000 currently targeted by the Governor for Competitive Grants to
    schools using a formula proposed above - based on the district's Combined Wealth Ratio,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

These Are The Times....

This is a late night post. I just returned home at 10:00 pm from a Board of Education meeting.

I identified some quotes I found particularly inspirational in one of the first Blog entries I published in this series. The words I'm sharing this evening were written by a hero of mine, Thomas Paine. Despite being born in England and not arriving in America until he was an adult, Paine soon understood the plight of colonists seeking freedom from England. He became an activist who motivated people to commit to the revolutionary cause through his essays and pamphlets that tugged on emotions and compelled people to enlist in the fight. The most noteworthy of these pieces was, The Crisis, written on December 23, 1776. General George Washington often commended Paine and compared the powerful effect of his words with the power of cannons.  

I have memorized the first paragraph of The Crisis and recite it daily as a personal mantra, I'm going to offer my explanation of Paine's work by applying the meaning to our current challenges in education.

These are the times that try men's souls (educators presently face an ever tightening economy that has negatively impacted schools in many ways). The summer soldiers and the sunshine patriots will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. ( those who are visible and vocal in times of good fortune may avert taking responsibility for addressing the issues spawned by budget cuts and other threats to instructional programs and educational integrity, but those who stand up for their convictions and advocate for the under-served will be appreciated near and wide) Tyranny, like Hell is not easily conquered yet we have as our consolation that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph (As state aid to education continues to decrease and the needs of learners continues to increase, we are confronted by daunting tasks, but one can relish the reward of overcoming adversity and experiencing success in spite of the obstacles) What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. (Teaching and learning is not easy, nor inexpensive; it is not quick, nor fleeting; life-long learning will improve quality of life and bring value to all in the future)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

David and Goliath

Many people appear to be entertained by observing someone overcome fierce odds and defeating adversity to meet with success, whether it's a final episode of American Idol or watching a movie like Hoosiers, or Rudy. I know I've always been attracted to rooting for the underdog. There's no doubt that my childhood experiences contributing to that perspective. I never let my parent's lack of high school diploma's interfere with my path to acquiring a doctorate. Nor did I allow growing up on welfare prevent me from attending Harvard. I might have been the shortest boy in my high school class but I was the captain of the basketball team and the squad's starting point guard.

This last reference to basketball steers us to tonight's Blog. Our varsity girl's basketball team received the number three seed for the upcoming sectional playoffs. Our high school has the smallest enrollment of all high schools in Section II. During the regular season the team routinely competes against schools that are two or three times the size of Heatly. For the second year in a row the girls went undefeated in league contests. The lone loss recorded in the entire 18 game campaign was experienced in a non-league tournament game versus a much larger school.

So, we find ourselves about to engage with more difficult competitors representing larger schools next week. This match reminds me of the adage I learned while living in Texas when people assessed two rivals of distinctly different sizes - "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."

Our girls are winners. They have earned recognition as scholar-athletes for their collective grade point average as members of the soccer team and basketball team. They are active and constructive contributors to all facets of our high school, from student council to community service. They are very nice young ladies with pleasant personalities and sweet smiles. But, on the basketball court they are tenacious and persistent competitors who make willing sacrifices to encounter success.

I like our chances.

Go Lady Hornets!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I'm sure that we were all asked that question during our childhood. And, if you've become a parent, I'm positive that at some point in time you've asked that question of your children. Certainly, if you're an educator you been involved in discussions related to that very same question.

Learners in our school district are able to schedule a lunch appointment with the superintendent through the secretary in the office. They are allowed to pick three classmates to fill out the four available seats that surround the circular table in my office. This interaction offers me an opportunity to remain connected to the consumers of our teaching services. The luncheon date also provides the learners with a chance to get to know the superintendent. It's been a rewarding experience for me and, judging from the number of learners who sign up, it must be an interesting experience for the guests as well. I have held these regular events in each school I served as principal during the course of a career that spans over three decades.

During the thirty minutes we share together, I perform a magic trick or two (it looks good on your resume since superintendents are expected to be magical), watch in awe as kids eat some amazing culinary concoctions, (you wouldn't believe some of the sandwiches I've seen - like they came out of the Fear Factor TV show) and we indulge in general conversations. In an effort to stimulate discussion and learn about the lunch guests I prompt them with dialogue starters. These questions often include: What is your favorite television show? What character would you want to be if you could be any character in a book you've read or a movie you've watched? Where would you go if you could visit anywhere in the world - and why?

The answers to these solicitations vary across a lengthy spectrum, based on whether the learner is in Kindergarten or twelfth grade. The one question that is answered without pause by the responder is: What would you like to do be when you grow up? The replies pour out without hesitation from younger learners while the older learners are much more measured in their responses. The answers become far more specific and sophisticated as the age of the lunch guest increases. The replies afford me a keen insight into the aspirations of our learners.

Typically, in grades Kindergarten through Second the occupations are limited to: fireman, policeman, nurse, teacher, and soldier. Those in grades Three through Five want to become president, professional athletes, movie actors/actresses, dancers, singers, rock stars, or a fairly new niche - general celebrity ala the Kardashians with no talent other than self promotion. While this later group is more expansive in scope and hope, the degree of realism wanes compared to the desires of the youngest grade levels. The middle school years tend to bring forth a more appropriate and attainable list of possibilities. The answers reflect an interest in veterinary science, television anchorperson, radio disc jockey, architect, marine biologist, video game designer, sportscaster, auto mechanic, and stewardess, Then, with the oldest learners, a more focused list of prospects: pediatric oncology, forensic scientist, cultural anthropologist, computer scientist, stock broker, sports medicine, para-legal, and emergency medical technician.

There are very few surprises along the way. However, a first grader did catch me off guard one afternoon. Once everyone around the table had finished replying, a little girl looked right at me with an anxious expression and politely and seriously asked, What do you want to be when you grow up?

It took me a moment to get over the fact she didn't think I had grown up yet (despite the gray hair revealed in my profile picture what you can't see in that image is that I'm only 5'5" tall). And then, with the same degree of earnest she displayed in her question, I responded: "I want to be an author. I want to write a book on school leadership and then a couple of novels."

"Oh. That's good." she said and returned to her sandwich.

Monday, February 13, 2012


If you've ever visited a carnival or county fair and strolled along the booths with barkers beckoning you to their games of chance, then it's likely that you've seen a Whac-A-Mole game. If you've stopped and played Whac-A-Mole, then you have a pretty good idea about the role of a school leader. Here's how you play the game:

"A typical Whac-A-Mole machine consists of a large, waist-level cabinet with five holes in its top and a large, soft, black mallet. Each hole contains a single plastic mole and the machinery necessary to move it up and down. Once the game starts, the moles will begin to pop up from their holes at random. The object of the game is to force the individual moles back into their holes by hitting them directly on the head with the mallet, thereby adding to the player's score. The more quickly this is done the higher the final score will be." (from Wikipedia)

The random nature of when and where the moles pop up resembles the unexpected and quick burst of issues that typically face school leaders and displace well designed plans and full agendas. There are times when it seems like as soon as you solve one problem, another one surfaces in its place. At the end of days like that, you're exhausted from the unpredictable, anxiety producing concerns that have held you hostage and prevented you from addressing other matters. Once the last person leaves your office, the final email has been processed, and the phone stops ringing, you peek at your "To-Do" list, then glance up at the clock, and it's been over eleven hours since your work day started and few, if any, of your goals have been crossed off the list. You now feel like the Mole, because it feels like people have been hitting you directly on the head with a mallet. (and you don't win any stuffed animals either!)

This metaphor, of a school leader as a contestant playing Whac-A-Mole, will offer a description of the role and responsibilities of a principal or superintendent to those unaware of the challenges, and also help explain why tonight's Blog post is abbreviated from the normal length of entries. It's not like this every day, or very often for that matter, but it was today.

I'm tired...

Good night.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Tap, Tap, Tap

Among the books that I've read and found interesting enough to return to again and again is Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath. It's a compelling work that offers a number of great ideas that could be converted and applied to leverage success in school leadership.

One of the more interesting sections of the book explains the concept referred to as "The Curse of Knowledge." It involves a study of people tapping out songs from a list of over 100 universally recognized songs, like Happy Birthday, the Star Spangled Banner,with the goal of having the listener correctly identify the simple and well known song. 

Before the tapper was given the title of the song they were asked to predict the success rate of listeners who were expected to guess the song based on the tapping. The average prediction of the success rate was 50%. They presumed that the listener would be right at least half of the time. However, the actual success rate was far lower, at only 2.5%, or 1 in 40 attempts.

Try this out yourself. We did at a faculty meeting that was designed to reinforce the need for teachers to introduce learning objectives within a clear context, with meaning, value and relevance to the learners. When we tried this the staff was surprised at the low success rate of the listeners. It appeared to frustrate the tapper, who couldn't believe that the listener was unable to identify such an easy, well known song. When called upon to try again, the tapper usually was more deliberate and tapped louder.

The problem is related to the fact that the tapper not only knows the song, but is also humming it in their head while they tap. Unfortunately, the listener does not know the song beforehand and certainly is unaware of the context of the humming inside the head of the tapper. Thus, the listener is puzzled by a series of unrelated taps in a twisted type of Morse code. The discord produces frustration for the tapper (or, in the case of a failed lesson, the teacher who can't understand why the learners "don't get it"). Typically, the tapper,(teacher) struggles to repeat the same delivery, but slower and louder, and with less patience in hope that that alone will lead to success for the listener (learner). Imagine the status of the listener (learner) who grows weary and embarrassed at not being able to recognize the song (objective).

Have you ever experienced this doomed dynamic?

It's a quick and easy strategy to remind people of the importance of conveying information. Perhaps the way that people talk through or over each other, particularly during the current political campaigns, when parties are at opposite ends of a polarized argument debate. Given the present state of vitriol contentious discourse in the educational arena it would be easy to find yourself locked in an exchange as frustrating as that illustrated in the tapper-listener exercise. Make sure you are not grinding away at expressing yourself with the benefit of humming a song in your head that the listener cannot hear. Provide a meaningful, valuable, and relevant context for the listener if you expect to have any success in communicating a persuasive position or policy. Seek alternate methods of presenting the idea or information. Show, don't tell.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Making Sense of Dollars and Cents

Let's look at some of the elements of school finance from a different perspective, using the wisdom of business books regarding fiscal management practices.

The italicized quotes have been extracted from the book,GUTS! Companies that Blow the Doors off Business-as-Usual, by Kevin and Jackie Freiberg.

"Establish a way of frequently reminding employees of the relationship between their job performance and business results. Then show them how those business results affect their lives."
In contrast to the state's plan to associate achievement of learners and performance of teachers to determine personnel evaluations, there is another relationship that can represent a more visible impact resulting from perceptions of the teacher-learner dynamic. 

Since we have a Charter school in our area, approximately two miles from our school, we face competition for learners. In fact, our district must pay nearly $14,000 to the Charter school for each learner from our attendance area that they enroll. That's a dramatic drain on our scarce resources. I don't believe that the cost associated with each "lost" learner was ever shared with the staff. That meant they were unaware of the consequences of any dissatisfied parent electing to exercise their prerogative by sending their son or daughter to an alternative learning center.
During a faculty meeting in which our budget was a focal point I took the opportunity to point out that each group of four learners who might depart our school for the Charter school represented a loss equivalent to the salary and benefits of a full time teacher. That potential impact, during a time of decreased aid from the state and a weak economy, would require us to reduce our staff as a consequence of learners leaving for the Charter school. That point was an attention getter!

While there are many different reasons that a parent might opt to withdraw their child and enroll them in a Charter school, we had to become more cognizant of the perception parents have on our customer service and relationship management, as well as our achievement levels. We could ill afford to lose $14,000 for each departure.

"Employees must understand how economic value is created, how revenues and expenses translate into profit, how they can create financial security for themselves and the organization, and what investors contribute and want in return. Employees must be taught to see themselves as the people who make the business grow. Simplify your financial statements, and then teach your employees to read and analyze them. If you don’t already know it, figure out your break even point, and then communicate it clearly and vividly."

If you condense all of the aspirations and expectations that parents have for public schools I suspect it could be reduced to nurturing the hopes and sustaining the dreams of children and inventing a better future. Our staff needs to treat all learners as if the children were their own son or daughter. Our staff must work cooperatively to develop a school environment that they would want to experience if they were young learners. That's what parents generally want.
If we pursue such a goal, then we have a better chance of retaining the learners we have, attracting new learners, and convincing residents of Green Island who attend Charter, parochial, or private schools to return to Heatly. That would help us financially. It would generate more state aid per pupil and reduce the costs involved with transporting learners to other schools, equipping them with textbooks, and, in the case of Charter school attendees, decrease our tuition costs of $14,000 per learner.

"Find and present relevant metrics that explain your company in understandable and practical terms – i.e. number of meals served, number of buffer pads consumed, phone calls received, emails transmitted, gallons of gasoline, substitutes employed, books in the library, minutes and hours of school, miles driven safely, pencils purchased, sheets of copy paper,…"

We have to collect data that will make a difference in what we do. Beyond tests score results, we need to: improve the number of parents at Open House; increase the attendance rates of learners; decrease the number of study halls taken by learners; expand extra-curricular participation; encourage learners to enroll in more challenging courses; improve our customer service practices and our relationship management methods,... 

Finally, when thinking about our goals we must reflect on the advice of Peter Senge, author of Schools That Learn, when he opined:

"We tend to think that we believe what we measure, but it's more likely that we measure what we believe."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Individuals Or Teams

The effort by the state of New York (and the federal government via the U.S. Department of Education) to relate measures of student performance (they need to use the term learner instead of student if they really hope to stimulate progress) directly to measures of individual teacher performance, has produced a process that resurrects the image of the multi-headed serpent of Greek mythology.

Critics of education often contend that schools should be run like a business. In that view, free market factors would determine winners and losers, rewarding success and rejecting failure. Many of these same critics suggest that applying a "carrot and stick" approach to teacher evaluation would increase accountability and ensure success in the classroom.

Let's enter the business arena for a moment and review an alternate perspective provided by the authors of books in the field of business - a competitive environment if there ever was one. Consider that the life span of a business rests upon the organization's agility in response to meeting the needs of customers and their accountability within the framework of product and service performance measures.

From The Southwest Airlines Wayby Jody Hoffer Gittell

"The problem with accountability systems pinned to individuals or functions rather than to the larger process, is that it makes people tend to look out for themselves to avoid recrimination rather than focusing on their shared goals. Trying to achieve control through functional accountability can seriously undermine information sharing and learning. Traditional measurement and accountability programs weaken relationships and the cooperation vital to organizational success.

Cross functional performance measurement improves coordination through its positive impact on relationships of shared goals, shared knowledge, and mutual respect, resulting in better performance.
The problem is that an organization’s most critical work processes tend to span multiple functional or departmental boundaries, and the outcomes of those work processes depend not on any one function but on the actions that are taken by people in each of these functions.

Design a performance measurement system that focuses on process outcomes rather than functional outcomes."

From The Marketing Imagination by Theodore Levitt

"Good work in pursuit of wrong purposes is more damaging than bad work in pursuit of right purposes."

Are the policy initiatives springing forth from Albany and Washington D.C. based on research and best evidence/practices, or are they merely opportunities for political exploitation?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The New Year, Or Mid-Year?

This evening's Blog is an odd reflection on one of the unusual experiences of working as an educator.

We have recently marked the arrival of a new year. At this writing, we've just turned another page of the calendar to welcome February. Time marches onward. The school year is moving along at a brisk pace.

For all but the first five years of my life, the "year" has been measured as the time from September through June - the school year. I have followed that familiar rhythm and scope from kindergarten through 12th grade, then directly to college and a teaching position immediately after graduation, and through an administrative career including graduate work ending in a doctorate. That is an uninterrupted stream of over five decades. The benchmarks along the annual trek begin with the back-to-school sales and Labor Day, run through the traditional holidays, refresh at the Christmas break, the Winter break and the Spring break, with a pause at Memorial weekend before concluding with exams as the 4th of July nears. The process of flipping pages of the school calendar has repeated itself for 53 years now.

At times it can be confusing when conversing with someone outside of the educational field. They mention "last year" and it means the January through December year in accord with a single number, such as 2011. I speak of last year and it references the hyphenated number 2010-2011, from September through June. Similarly, "next year" begins in September when learners resume their studies after a summer hibernation.

Additionally, since the year for teachers is most often measured in ten month spans from September to June, the parameters of a year differ in our household. I work continuously through all twelve months without a summer break as a superintendent and my wife works the shorter year as a teacher. The distinction resembles the statement of George Bernard Shaw who claimed that, "England and America are two countries separated by a common language."

Oh well. Enjoy the rest of your year.