Managing Change in Schools
when our school staff members try to introduce something new, it just seems
real faddish and kind of wacky. They usually use emotional manipulation to get
what they want, and are very light on facts and figures. Consequently, our
school has done a lot of stuff that doesn't work. A few years later, they
quietly go back to the way it used to be. I don't see a lot of businesses changing
as often as the schools seem to do. I'm not against change, but I am against
change that makes things worse, not better. How can we fool-proof our school
managers a little better?
Unwise change in
public school settings comes down to human pride, for the most part. School administrators and
educational regulators want to justify their own jobs, so they think if they do
a lot of "administering" or "regulating" they can make it seem like they're
really busy and therefore deserving of high pay.
Administering or regulating, to them, means changing what
is in place. It's challenging, because as a group, educators haven't liked
change very much over the years. A whole lot of it has been forced on them in
recent years by the increasing bane of school management's existence, the
"unfunded mandate" from state and federal governments. Unfortunately, a lot of
sound educational practices have gone out the window in the name of "change."
That makes rank-and-file educators suspicious of the next change that comes
down the pike.
problem is, school administrators bring a lot of the problems on themselves
with unwise changes. When they overmanage, add new programs on their own
hunches or because of peer pressure from their colleagues in other districts,
or succumb to "mission creep" and get schools involved in all sorts of
nonacademic new programs, it's often out of their own pride and desire for
feathering their own nests and empire-building, instead of focusing on
cost-efficiencies and doing what's truly best for kids and their families.
exactly why we don't have tried-and-true, traditional reading and math
instruction in our grade schools. There isn't a shred of evidence that all the
newfangled, New Age, Whole Language and Whole Math philosophies work, but they
are considered "new," and therefore, somehow, "better" than what has worked well
lot of the things school managers often work hardest to change seem to cost
more money and require more staffing, but don't appear to help learning any
more than the old methods did, if that. Examples: cooperative group learning,
multiage grouping, year-round school, early start times in high schools, ending
math drills in grade schools, allowing calculators on standardized tests, and
so forth and so on.
when you ask them for proof that shows that this new method, curriculum or
style has worked well on a large scale in other schools, they get really
defensive, and boom! You get labeled as a "troublemaker," and your child may
suffer. That's because the realities of political gamesmanship in a public
school often lead to bad things happening to the children of people who openly
question or criticize top management. Suddenly, your child doesn't "make" the
gifted program, or doesn't "make" cheerleading, or starts getting bullied or
ostracized by children whose parents are on the school board or work for the
the alternative - letting bad change and unwise decision-making happen without
speaking out against them out of fear - is unacceptable to most good citizens,
can parents keep school staff members accountable for making only the changes
that will really work, without risking harm to themselves or their children?
an article clip-and-send activist! Identify the 10 or 12 most important issues
in your school or your district, either current or upcoming, and start culling
quality education publications for fact-packed articles about them. Photocopy
and share with important others. You could even take it upon yourself to
educate your local education reporters with this practice. Sign your name and make
a comment or point out when the pertinent issue will be coming up in your
district, but mostly, keep your opinions and criticisms to yourself, and use
the facts and opinions gathered by others to do your talking for you.
subscription to Education Week (www.edweek.org) could be purchased by your
parent-teacher organization and a parent's job during the year could be to
clip, copy, and send important articles on issues in your district to parents,
teachers, administrators and school board members. That's basically a
pro-government, pro-university, pro-big spending education publication; be sure
to watch moderate and conservative publications regularly, too, including the
Eagle Forum's education newspaper (www.eagleforum.org/educate/index.html)