May's Fast Company has a cover article on "Change or Die." Points include:
- 9 out of 10 bypass patients have failed to change life-threatening habits 2 years after surgery
- 77% of such patients succeeded in a radical life-style change including significant support structures
- A vision of a better life (world? school?) promotes change better than fear or crisis
- Facts don't drive change; we don't accept, much less act on facts that don't fit our world view. (Vision helps re-frame.)
- Emotional connection drives change -- vision again.
Let's apply these to efforts to improve schools.
NCLB (which is only one aspect of the test-score based change imperative which has been growing for twenty-five years) uses facts and fear to try to achieve change. Neither will work. This is, of course, not a statement that facts are unimportant. Data can help direct change, but it won't drive it.
At the system level, superintendents and school boards are using programs to try and drive change -- and then are surprised when they don't work. No new vision, no change. Minor tweaking -- no change. Programs lack vision and are (at least as they come out of district offices) just a minor tweaking of "doing school." Any surprise there's no change?
Change is hard. But, if students are to learn and achieve more next year, and the year after and the one after that and so on, adults -- teachers, faculties, principals -- are going to have to change their behaviors. Not easy. And not helped by either the state and national level "facts and fear" approach, nor by the system level programmatic response.
BTW, this is going in a new, "If Schools Were Run Like a (Great) Business..." category. I'll come back to this, as I believe the world of business can suggest some ways we can hope for teachers, faculties, principals, system personnels and, yes, even school boards to change.