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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The "Drive" to Succeed

It's long been assumed by many that reward and punishment are central factors in the dynamic that provokes desired responses and levels of achievement.After all, isn't that why most of the fifty states have adopted policies and strategies designed to prompt improved learning through frequent high stakes tests and heightened measures of accountability? It's easy - identify those under-performing schools, get rid of inadequate teachers based on assessment results of learners, close chronically low performing schools,...
However, Daniel Pink's most recent book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, presents a compelling narrative and carefully researched studies that refute the commonly held view that people basically are motivated by the carrot and stick method reflected in proposals championed by educational "reformers" like Michelle Rhee, the former head of the Washington D.C. public schools. Teachers were fired or pressured to leave that district as Rhee swept through the system and attracted a great deal of attention for "cleaning up" the schools. Interestingly, not long after her departure, rampant cheating was discovered to have occurred during her tenure at the helm of the school district. The pressure to achieve may have produced some perceptible growth but it more likely contributed to unethical practices of teachers who feared for their jobs and altered tests or "helped" children during testing, thus inflating test scores that gave an appearance of improvement. There was enough "improvement" to propel Rhee to the cover of Time magazine and far more than 15 minutes of fame.

RSA animation has provided an understandable, graphic interpretation of Pink's work in the following video. It's well worth watching.

After you've watched the video, ask yourself how the findings of Pink's work compare with the regulations unfolding in many state capitals across the country regarding educational reform efforts. Where are we heading? What do you predict in terms of results? Why are we doing what we're doing? Who decides these plans and why are we allowing them to do so?

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