Leader vs. Leadership

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It is becoming increasingly clear that the challenges faced by teachers and defenders of public education are both external forces promoting dollar-driven reforms and privatization as well as internal forces and people more concerned with wielding power and leading others than engaging in leadership.

“Here it is important to introduce a new thought by stating that the word ‘leader’ and its function is different from the word ‘leadership’ and its function. This means that a leader is not necessarily one who engages in leadership…

Leadership is not what is done, but why it is done. The ‘why’ penetrates to the truth behind an action. The act of giving can be unwholesome in the light of why it is done. It is in itself open to judgement until its roots are exposed, because the reasons behind an action far outweigh the worth of the action itself.

It is the truth behind the action that makes it wholesome or unwholesome. Leadership cannot exist in the presence of the unwholesome, just as integrity cannot exist in the presence of corruption or deceit…

Not every giver is generous. Not every fighter is a warrior. Not all players are champions. Similarly, not all leaders appreciate the values of leadership.”

“How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People” ~ Jonar Nader

The following passage attributed to the Tao-te Ching by Lao-tzu also comments on effective leadership.

“Therefore, desiring to rule over the people,
One must in one’s words humble oneself before them
And, desiring to lead the people,
One must, in one’s person, follow behind them.”

“You who choose to lead must follow” ~ Ripple

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Secretary Duncan flip on parental involvement a real flop

parentAccording to the Educational Testing Service web site, ETS is

the world’s largest private educational testing and measurement organization, ETS develops, administers or scores more than 50 million tests annually in more than 180 countries at more than 9,000 locations internationally.

Back in 2003, ETS released a report that identified factors in and out of school related to student achievement. According to the report, parental involvement and the home environment is just as important as what goes on in the school.

It is generally well recognized, in research as well as in the public generally, that parenting plays a critical role in child development and well-being, as well as in performance in school. It seems logical that, if parents are important, having two is better than having just one—at least on the average…

Research has pointed out that much of the large difference in achievement between children from two-parent and one-parent families is due to the effects of the lower incomes of one-parent families…

The report concludes by making a case  for education policies and practices that focus equally on supporting and strengthening both the school and home environment…

Gaps in school achievement, as measured, for example, in the eighth grade, have deep roots—deep in out of school experiences and deep in the structures of schools. Inequality is like an unwanted guest who comes early and stays late..

Nothing about the impediments to learning that accumulate in a child’s environment should be a basis for lowering expectations for what can be done for them by teachers and schools, or for not making teachers and schools accountable for doing those things.

And denying the role of these outside happenings – or the impact of a student’s home circumstances – will not help to endow teachers and schools with the capacity to reduce achievement gaps.

Also, insistence that it can all be done in the school may be taken to provide excuses for public policy, ignoring what is necessary to prevent learning gaps from opening. Schools are where we institutionalize learning; they are also places where we tend to institutionalize blame.

Fast forward to 2011 and just as states around the country are reviewing and adopting the Common Core State Learning Standards, the U.S. Department of Education discontinued funding for Parental Information And Resource Centers. According to the PIRC web site

Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs) help implement successful and effective parental involvement policies, programs, and activities that lead to improvements in student academic achievement and that strengthen partnerships among parents, teachers, principals, administrators, and other school personnel in meeting the education needs of children.

What a great parental involvement program and resource to help students and families transition to the higher standards and academic expectations of the Common Core. Yet the notice posted on the web site explains…

Funding for the PIRC program as a whole has been discontinued by the US Department of Education. Therefore, most PIRC programs are no longer in operation although several are continuing with funding from other sources. You may contact PIRCs directly to determine their status.

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Guess all the money the Federal government expended on developing national standards and tests to measure student learning, they could no longer afford to fund programs that actually supported student learning?

Back in 2011, The Answer Sheet posted a guest commentary by Arnold F. Fege andEdwin C. Darden regarding the poor timing and negative impact of this decision…

For 16 years PIRCs have helped low-income families, school districts and state governments nurture high-quality parent involvement programs….We aren’t losing a bureaucracy here; rather, we are enduring a real loss that will reverberate across all 50 states and several U.S. territories.

What makes this cut a shame is that PIRCs demonstrate a commitment of taxpayer dollars to ensure that the home-school partnership remains strong.The investment is not just good public relations. Decades of research prove that family involvement and academic success go hand-in-hand, especially for kids in poverty…

Indeed, the PIRCs have had amazing results. According a recent survey conducted by the National Coalition of PIRCs: *Eighty-eight percent of families said that because of the information and services received from PIRC, they were better able to support their children’s learning at home…

the impact of living without the PIRCs will be immediate and dramatic — a major blow for kids in high-poverty communities, the parents who love them, the school districts who teach them, the communities who care for them, and a nation that relies on them.

Hard to understand why the U.S. Department of Education would discontinue such an important parent involvement program at the same time states were rolling out the Common Core State Standards and increasing academic demands on students across the country?

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Even more perplexing is the fact that this decision was made during the tenure of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who commented in 2012 on the critical importance and role of parents, and more specifically involvement of dads, in supporting student achievement.

Somewhere during the course of our national dialogue, our expectations for parents have lowered, particularly for fathers. Today, I want to challenge every father to step up. If we want strong schools and strong communities, we need more dads involved…

The statistics on this front are staggering. Almost 24 million children — one in three — are likely growing up without their father involved in their lives. Those statistics are even higher if you look at the numbers inside our communities of color. That absence puts much too great a burden on our strong moms and teachers. Everyone is trying to do their part, but when dad is not around, we are all playing a man down on the team.

We know that increasing parent involvement, particularly the involvement of fathers, is key to improving schools and communities across the country. As we work to drive down drop-out rates and increase graduation and college completion rates, fathers have an important role to play…

It is dishonest for the Feds and Department of Education to claim they are supporting efforts to raise student achievement when our taxpayer dollars are devoted to the creation and administration of national assessments that facilitate expanded efforts to collect, share, and monetize student data while at the same time eliminating funding for existing parental involvement programs that have helped to increase student academic achievement.

Clearly Arne Duncan is more experienced and qualified to coach a basketball team than to lead a federal agency tasked with administering national education policies and programs.

Perhaps the Secretary of Education could learn a lesson from Michael Jordan and understand that athletes and students are continually learning even though individual performance does vary and will fluctuate from day to day.

That is why it is foolish and dishonest to claim to measure the skill level of students and the quality of their teachers based on performance during a single end of the year high stakes “game”, especially when in too many cases, teachers and students practiced most of the school year one or even two players down.

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Not How Smart Are You But, How Are You Smart?

“Kids make their mark in life by doing what they can do, not what they can’t… School is important, but life is more important. Being happy is using your skills productively, no matter what they are.” ~ Howard Gardner 

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“These great thinkers [Gardner, Armstrong ] have proposed a much healthier question regarding intellect, not how smart are you but, How are you smart?…The ways in which you are smart are a part of the seed within you and hold the key to your further growth.” ~ Jim Cathcart

Learning is about discovering your purpose and passion in life. Schools should provide diverse pathways and opportunities for students to explore and unleash their specialized skills and abilities…not standardize them.

It is far more important that students are free to learn in school and well educated, than subjecting them to continuous testing to determine if they have been educated well.

Testing and training students to sort and compare how well they meet common standards does not prepare them for the social and emotional challenges of uncommon careers.

“The second concern is justifying the Common Core on the highly dubious notion that college and career skills are the same. On its face, the idea is absurd. After all, do chefs, policemen, welders, hotel managers, professional baseball players and health technicians all require college skills for their careers? 

Do college students all require learning occupational skills in a wide array of careers? In making the “same skills” claim, proponents are really saying that college skills are necessary for all careers and not that large numbers of career skills are necessary for college…

Nearly every study of employer needs over the past 20 years comes up with the same answers. Successful workers communicate effectively orally and in writing and have social and behavioral skills that make them responsible and good at teamwork. They are creative and techno-savvy, have a good command of fractions and basic statistics, and can apply relatively simple math to real-world problems like financial or health literacy…

All students should master a verifiable set of skills, but not necessarily the same skills. High schools fail so many kids partly because educators can’t get free of the notion that all students — regardless of their career aspirations — need the same basic preparation.

As states pile on academic courses, they give less attention to the arts and downplay career and technical education to make way for a double portion of math. Maintaining our one-size-fits-all approach will hurt many of the kids we are trying most to help. Maybe the approach will just lead to another unmet education goal. But it won’t resolve the already high rate at which students drop out or graduate without the skills and social behaviors required for career success.”

Robert Lerman, “Are College and Career Skills Really the Same?” – The Business Desk / PBS NewsHour

“What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like?

Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do. So I always ask the question, what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?…

Well, it’s so amazing as a result of our kind of educational system, crowds of students say well, we’d like to be painters, we’d like to be poets, we’d like to be writers, but as everybody knows you can’t earn any money that way. Or another person says well, I’d like to live an out-of-doors life and ride horses. I said you want to teach in a riding school? Let’s go through with it. What do you want to do?

When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way…”

“What If Money Was No Obect” ~ Alan Watts

“So, a lot of people are talking about how to fix education right now. Here’s what we’re doing: The Roadtrip Nation Experience is a program that empowers students to map their interests to future pathways in life. The heart of this experience is students exploring their communities and speaking with local Leaders to learn the steps that they took to get to where they are today.”

~ The Roadtrip Nation Experience

Everyone has been made for some particular work 

and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.

~ Rumi