Sunday, November 15, 2009

Schools Want You to Know Jack!


Meet the Press Host David Gregory focused on reforming education with guests Arnie Duncan, Newt Gingrich, and Al Sharpton. Arnie talked about dramatically improving outcomes, not through inputs but through rewards. Schools would compete for over $4 billion in bonuses, an almost Goldman Sachs like standard.

How might principals lie, cheat, and steal to garner payola? Nearly thirty percent of CEO's backdated stock options to maximize compensation. The practice ran over a decade's time. Might a similar number of principals do likewise? Would they incentivize teachers, like Wall Street traders? Or, will they make teachers fear for their job with consequential performance rankings?

Arnie talked about "top-middle-bottom" teacher performance. In a Jack Welch like move, Duncan wants poor performing teachers gone, fired. GE CEO Welch was known as "Neutron Jack" for eliminating head count. Annually the bottom 10% of the GE workforce got a pink slip. The reason? Poor performance.

Dr. Deming's Red Bead Game showed the folly of such practices. Management should be clear on the aim of the system and provide leadership for improvement. That requires Profound Knowledge, an understanding of Psychology, Systems, Variation, Knowledge and their interactions. Arnie quipped "continued improvement" in the interview, but it's clearly not founded on W. Edwards Deming's teachings.

Psychology includes motivation, both intrinsic (from within) and extrinsic (from without). The most powerful motivators are internal. Pride in work, contributing to something greater, a supportive work environment, and the natural joy of learning are intrinsic motivators. What happens to them when one is worried about falling into the "ready to be axed" category? They evaporate. Dr. Deming noted that fear causes wrong figures. I expect any teachers near Arnie's bottom to do some "adjusting."

Optimizing pay suboptimizes the system. Executives looted millions from shareholders to maximize their pay. Wall Street pushed junk financial products for commissions and bonuses. How will principals and teachers respond to Duncan's two edged sword, $4 billion in rewards scattered amongst a field of thousands of fired teachers? It won't be pretty. Will they call him "Atomic Arnie"?

Update 2-5-11:   The rush to rank, reward and punish teachers for student performance has many potholes, including a low predictive track record for top teachers.  How educated are those pushing these systems?  Dr. Deming would call them hacks.

Update 7-6-11:  Teachers and principals are as smart as CEO's.  Rampant test cheating occurred in Atlanta., amongst other cities.  Education Secretary Arnie Duncan attempted to defend his bad theory, by blaming bad apples.  P4P is a bad system for improving performance.  Wait until doctors and nurses get teacher like demands.   "Data and meeting ‘targets’ by whatever means necessary, became more important than true outcomes."  Highly predictable in competitive, extrinsic motivation schemes.

Update 3-29-14:   Arnie opened the doors for the big money boys to deform public education. 

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