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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wanted: School Managers; Leaders Need Not Apply

The title of this Blog post could very well be the title of a job advertisement submitted by the New York State Department of Education in a newspaper in the near future. The more regulations that spew out in the form of Student learning Objectives, Annual Professional Performance Review, mandated testing programs that infringe on direct instruction,... the less value there is in leadership.

Thirty-five years as a practitioner of educational leadership at all levels of schooling - elementary, middle school, and high school before assuming a district wide position of influence - has afforded me a keen vantage point on exercising the responsibility for creating and sustaining a productive environment for teaching and learning. That insight convinces me that creativity and innovation shrink in perspective when measured against the heightened worth placed on filling out forms, counting units of this and that, and following state imposed requirements. Education is appearing to resemble a paint-by-numbers experience more and more each year.

It is a depressing scenario playing out in public schools across the country. The rush to standardize and the interest in uniformity subsequently places a premium on homogenized schools, no matter the distinct differences that separate one school from another. Demographics of economic levels and race aside, all schools must follow the same rules. There is precious little opportunity to explore and exploit qualities of program and practice as they apply to the unique properties of a school. Inhibitions increase as high stakes pressure leaves administrators risk aversive.

The more meetings I attend to learn about the latest state mandates, the more I am concerned about the direction that public school education is taking. I am reminded of the title and sub title of one of my favorite books, written by Warren Bennis and Bert Nanus, Leaders: Mangers Do Things Right, Leaders Do the Right Things. Management, that is, doing things right, is not beneficial if what is being done is not the right thing to do.

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