I saw a t-shirt in a souvenir shop with skull and crossbones on one side and the inscription “The Beatings Will continue Until Morale Improves” on the other side. Perhaps this motto should be emblazoned above the facade of Tweed. There is a wealth of literature dealing with leadership, all of which has been ignored by the denizens of Tweed.
The scion of leadership training is Peter Senge, a professor at MIT. The Fifth Discipline and his subsequent works are now considered the standard for converting corporations into “learning organizations.” Senge’s work “lays the foundation for a true alternative to the authoritarian hierarchy.” Corporation after corporation have imbedded a culture of team-building and employee participation into their leadership structure. The Department of Education has been tone deaf and continues to encourage an archaic leadership model that somehow believes if you threaten and coerce, teachers will improve their skills.
The Leadership Academy somehow believed that the leaders of the future were outside the school system or teachers with very little teaching experience. The Department must create a new recruitment system that recruits potential supervisors from the ranks of teachers and acknowledges that leaders may chose to remain as teachers. Exemplary schools are lead by a team of supervisors and teachers who drive an educational philosophy. Imposing a philosophy, one in which the teachers have no ownership is doomed to fail.
In spite of the authoritarian approach of Tweed there are successful schools scattered throughout the city. In the early days of the “reorganization” Tweed exempted 200 or so schools from the cookie cutter pattern. Rather than investigating what made some school successful while others struggle, Kleinberg ignored the ethos of successful schools. Teachers resent the Tweed imposed Monday Professional Development because it is not organic to what they do every day. In some schools professional development is Circular 6 “common planning time,” teams of teachers examining student work, designing lessons and reflecting on their practice. The Chancellor’s District concentrated on the lowest achieving schools in the city. The Board of Education collaborated with the UFT and created an effective design that had exemplary results with the poorest, least effective schools.
In spite of their press releases Tweed has not “turned around” the school system. Scores rose all over the State, and in other large cities in the State rose at a higher rate than in New York City. If we want to imbed successful practices you must create cultures within schools. Teams of supervisors and teachers who have access to expertise and the ability to create and implement programs that are relevant to their students. Tweed should send Jack Welch on his way and create a Leadership Academy that is school-based, and invites teachers and supervisors to create teams within schools that can drive instructional programs. Beatings will not create a meaningful accountability system.