1.The people who make the policies don't actually work in the field.
2. The people in the field aren't given the ability to influence management without appearing to be troublemakers.
3. Customers aren't encouraged to speak up, and their suggestions are ignored.
4. It's easier to make a policy than to undo it.
5. Business is complicated and unless you come up with a clever way to measure the impact of a decision, it's often difficult to tell if it's a good idea or not.
Are you a teacher? If you are, I am willing to bet the farm that you were like me and read this while thinking "Holy Shit! He's talking about me!"
Godin goes on to talk about how most decisions that are being made by those in charge are made based on superstition. In education, there are key superstitions driving current day educational reform and they match up with Godin's five rules freakishly well:
- test scores are a reflection of either good or bad teachers
- we can test our way to better learning
- larger rewards (merit pay) or harsher punishments (mass firings) will induce teachers to be better
- higher standards will save us
- teachers can't be trusted to advocate for anything but themselves
- firing teachers will better our education system
No educational reform will ever succeed until those who are in charge actually listen to, trust and empower teachers to work collaboratively with those in charge. As long as teachers are treated with such disdain and are the target of test and blame accountability schemes, there should be no surprise that our best and brightest either quit teaching or don't even consider becoming a teacher. If we could attract and retain good teachers, this would fix reason number two.
No educational reform will ever succeed until we listen to students' input. Astronomical dropout rates are the kids way of voting with their feet. They are telling us something is wrong. Some students choose to leave, but sadly most are simply treated as drop-outs-in-waiting until we can force them out. Then we have the gall to blame them. Want to know what is wrong with our schools? Ask the kids! This would fix reason number three.
No educational reform will ever succeed until we are prepared to radically rethink education. Simply doubling the dose of Test and Punish, high-stakes accountability will do nothing but waste more money while creating more reluctant learners. It's easier to tweak No Child Left Behind than it is to abandon it outright. Some have labelled Obama's No Child Left Behind 2.0 as simply rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic. If those in charge could admit they were wrong, this would fix reason number four.
No educational reform will ever succeed until we realize that standardized test scores should never be used to judge the quality of a school or teacher. Research has shown that 50% to 90% of the variation in student learning is not attributable to school factors but to student, family and community characteristics. Test scores are less of an indictment of good or bad teaching and more of an indictment of things like poverty and opportunity. Education is complicated, and until we figure out that the ways we have conventionally measured learning is inaccurate, unreliable, invalid and far too narrow, current day educational reform will continue to get reason number five wrong.
Education reform is a complicated beast, and I don't profess to have all the answers, but I am pretty convinced that some of what I have above would contribute towards making school a better place to learn.