Fascinating article on successful school reform, The One Type of Leader Who Can Turn Around a Failing School in Harvard Business Review.
- Surgeons make quick decisions, direct resources to the most pressing problems and thus focus on the students who are most tested, pulling resources from what is generally younger students.
- Soldiers cut waste and exhort everyone to work harder.
- Accountants try to grow their schools, look for additional revenue sources that can then be used to improve the school
- Philosophers are passionate about the value of teaching professionals, and try to build a collaborative environment through discussions and positive support
- Architects design a long term plan and are willing to accept short term setbacks and mistakes on the way
The only leader with long term positive impact is the architect, although performance is slow to improve, often not until the third year. Architects average about 20% increase in exam results, although test results are not paramount to an architect. As one architect explained “My measure of success is — are parents complaining more? And are we issuing fewer anti-social behavior orders (ASBOs) within our local community? If so, then parents are engaging more with the school and our community is improving.”
It turns out that making quick decisions, prioritizing resources to the most pressing immediate problems, cutting costs and personnel, growth for growth’s sake, and endless debates about best practices do more harm to the school than good.
Taking a 360-degree view of the school and stakeholders with a goal for long-term transformation of students and communities, and then leading the school through change while both being vigilant about the long term goals and forgiving of short term failures is the one and only way to schoolwide improvement.
In fact, this discusion will fit nicely with Tom Murray's Edchat Interactive in January on Future Ready Schools.