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Predicting End-of-Year Student Performance

Posted December 19, 2012 11:56 AM by Ted Jackson

I Can’t Get No…

How can you institute any level of pay-for-performance if you only track your measures once a year?

Not knowing where you stand at any given moment makes it that much harder to demonstrate your impact. If you’re off track or on track during the year, will you be the last to know? And how do you decide where to focus your attention: pull from a hat?

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Chicago Public Schools: "That Used To Be Us"

Posted September 14, 2012 9:11 AM by Dylan Miyake

As has been widely reported, the teachers in Chicago are on strike. The teacher's union, some 25,000 strong, is demanding that laid-off teachers be given the first opportunity for new opening and for an evaluation system that does not rely as heavily upon student results. They're also upset about the calls for a longer school day and a longer school year. Of course, at the end of the day, neither the administration or the teacher's union will "win" this one. Only the students stand to lose, and here's why.

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Good Measurement Needs Good Leadership

Posted August 20, 2012 12:13 PM by Dylan Miyake

Every morning, I run through Emory University. The evolution of this institution over time has been incredible. From a small Methodist college in a small town in Georgia, Emory has emerged as a major international university in the largest city in the southeast. The undergraduate, law, medical, and business schools attract students from literally around the world, and speakers like the Dalai Lama and President Carter have spoken at the university.

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How to apply technology in education?

Posted August 6, 2012 11:50 AM by Ted Jackson

I was reading the Sunday New York Times today, and it got me thinking about education and the use of technology. I know it is Monday and the NYT I was reading was from July 22, but I found it interesting nonetheless. The graphic in the NYT was called "Advising by Algorithm" in a pullout section called Education Life. It spoke about how Austin Peay State University recommended classes to its students.

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Release of Teacher Performance Evaluations in New York

Posted June 25, 2012 4:12 PM by Mark Cutler

Transparency is almost always considered an important characteristic of both good government as well as good performance management systems. Therefore, on the surface, the effort in New York State to have all teacher performance evaluations released to the public seems like a worthy reform of the state's public school system.

First, parents can see the performance evaluations of their children's teachers and prospective teachers. Second, teachers will improve their performance for one of two reasons: (1) the knowledge that anyone – their spouses, their neighbors, even their mothers – can see their performance evaluations or (2) parents will be allowed to "shop" for their children's teachers and poor performing ones will have no buyers.

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Education and Healthcare

Posted June 7, 2012 12:47 PM by Dylan Miyake

Here at Ascendant, we're measurement geeks. We like things that can be quantified, explained, and analyzed. We like to understand what's driving behavior, and we like to say "what gets measured gets managed." So it's really interesting when we do work in healthcare and education. Because, despite the massive amount of measurement in both of those sectors, there's truly a paucity of management. Why is that?

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The Ultimate Measure

Posted May 30, 2012 12:22 PM by Dylan Miyake

For private sector organizations, it's usually pretty easy to figure out the ultimate measure of success -- it's usually some proxy for profitability -- either earnings per share, revenue growth, or share of market. But for the clients we work with, it's often a bit harder. While we can usually define the strategic objective pretty clearly, it's harder to define the measure behind it.

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Educational Leadership & Its Involvement in Strategy Management

Posted May 23, 2012 2:37 PM by Ted Jackson

The following is a guest blog by Hanna Lindstrom

Administrative management in opposition to leadership management has been the buzz of the corporate world for the last decade. As American schools struggle to produce student outcomes on par with international standards, school systems are resorting the management theories of the private sector in the attempt to better themselves, and the opposition between these two managerial styles is now becoming a topic in many different fields of study. Both business schools and educational leadership courses have begun debating how best to hone management skills in order to produce far more with very little.

Middle and senior managers are unavoidable in the structure of school administration. Multiple departments, such as math, language, sciences, as well as the seniority of staff members mandate that a system of hierarchy be in place. The curriculum is influenced by voter-citizens and involved parents, as well as national standards. Traditional management models are necessary for enforcing the status quo and providing execution on a predetermined plan. But this leaves schools vulnerable to "managerialism," a system in which rules and regulations become inflexible, hierarchies are cherished. Creative problem solving in these systems is often looked at with suspicion.

Enter leadership management style, where the boss leads with creative vision. The Wall Street Journal published an excellent overview of the differences in managerial style. Under this leadership style, teachers and mid-level managers are challenged to engage in critical decision making, to transform and to own a portion of the process of administration. They are encouraged to act with abstract goals in mind, as opposed to reacting to micro-managerial breaches of regulation.

Tony Bush emphasizesTony Bush emphasizes the need for school administrators to take on both roles of manager-enforcer and leader-inspirer simultaneously. In the course of the day-to-day affairs of the administration, principals may not be able to distinguish these roles from one another, and Bush emphasizes the need for full understanding of the context of economies of labor and resources. For example, an underperforming school with little in the way of stability or structure requires a heavier hand in management, rather than a visionary approach.

Distributive leadership is a tool for flattening decision-making hierarchies and assigning administrative challenges to task forces or teams. It allows the senior school managers to relinquish administration to the people who keep themselves apprised of the needs of the students. Outcomes improve with flexibility and responsiveness.

And yet distributive leadership is not a panacea, according to educators Alma Harris and James Spillane. It is more a way of offering a critical reexamination of our current administrative model in schools. It points to the revaluation of leadership as a practice rather than as the role of heroic individuals with transformational vision. Implicit is the knowledge that engaged followers are critical to the success of any leader, which contradicts the more traditional view of underlings as automatons.

All of these moves toward restructuring management have little evidence base to build on. More study is needed when introducing a flat or lean structure to schools. Bush highlights the need for concrete, underpinning values in order that these new styles of administration be safeguarded from constant manipulation by external stakeholders, such as voters, politicians and parents. Ultimately, educational staff are most aware of how to make improvements to the education of their students. This administrative approach to the current problems with secondary school education does not have a definitive thesis for what individual schools should do to change, but its perspective does have the potential to create leaders in business, thought and public policy.

The Creativity Conundrum In Educational Leadership

Posted May 2, 2012 5:23 PM by Ted Jackson

This is a guest blog from Roslyn Tam. The original can be found at www.educationalleadership.com.

Many of the men and women who shaped the world over the course of history, from Mozart to Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs, have done so by thinking well outside the sphere of traditional education. Famously, each of these men had some issues with authority, and it's hard to imagine any of them sitting placidly in a classroom and copying facts and figures from a chalkboard. In the end, their genius was not simply in their ability to understand complex systems, although that was certainly an important part of it. What set them apart was their creativity--that is, their ability to use previously held knowledge to produce something that no one had ever thought to make before; whether a symphony, a scientific theory or a personal computer.

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On Management, Ethics, and Performance

Posted March 29, 2012 10:07 AM by Dylan Miyake

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution had a major story last Sunday on the apparent prevalence of cheating in major urban school districts across the country. This investigative article was spurned by work the AJC did in Atlanta -- under the premise if the results were too good to be true, they probably were. Unfortunately, cheating of the nature discovered in Atlanta and suspected around the country hurts those who can least afford to be hurt -- children with already marginal educational opportunities.

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