New Staffing Paradigm (Design Principle #4)

Let’s play. Imagine you are a principal of a chronically failing school that is trying to turn around. The school has 25 homeroom teachers (25 classrooms of students). I’m going to give you one million dollars at the end of the school year for properly staffing your school the entire year. Seriously, the district or network is going to give you $1,000,000 after just one year. Of course, you will ask me what “properly staffing” means and how we would measure it. It’s simple: properly staffing is measured by the number of days of high-quality instruction every student receives. You get a million dollars, principal, if every class of students in your school receives high-quality instruction every day, every period (for 185 student-teacher contact days).

Eight Design Principles of a New Education System

I have argued that the American public education system is broken and that only wholescale, systemic reform will change the system enough to get significantly different outcomes. However, very few school systems are willing or able to implement wholescale reform. “Systemic transformation” often turns out to be a change of only one part of the system – it turns out to be incremental and piecemeal.

ChatGPT in Education

The New York Department of Education recently banned the use of ChatGPT in their schools. ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence tool that can provide quick answers to questions and write high-school level, high-quality essays for students on almost any topic. The Department’s main argument is that the tool does not build critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

One Christmas

It was over ten years ago, but I can still remember many of the things that happened that Christmas as if it were yesterday. We lived in a very poor neighborhood in Colorado Springs, a half mile from Helen Hunt Elementary School. My father was in Korea, and my mother was ready to have her eighth child.

Where Have all the Heroes Gone?

Where have all the heroes gone . . . long time passing? Where are they – John Deasy, Cami Anderson, Michelle Rhee, Chris Barbic, Hanna Skandera, Joshua Star, Dwight Jones and others – the leaders in education who were willing to make the tough decisions few others are prepared to make; who were willing to take bold action to transform failing systems and were willing to pay the political, physical, or personal costs in the attempt?

Schools are Essential?

Are schools essential? For almost every educator, the answer would be, “of course!” What if “being essential” means that the organization provides such an important service or public good that the suspension of that service will greatly harm the public? Even then, I believe most schools would still claim they are essential. And the public, still raw from the trauma of school closures due to COVID, would undoubtedly agree.

A Vision of the Future

Every great endeavor starts with a vision – a picture of what is possible or a mental picture of what the future holds. Putting a man on the moon, eradicating polio, desktop computing, online streaming (to name just a few) – all came about because people could envision a different way and broke the constraints of contemporary paradigms. Changing the American public education system requires a vision that will challenge us, break the current design, and force us to backward plan from our best estimate of what our students will face in the Year 2035.

The education system is broken. How can it be fixed?

We are one tick away from too late. But just as in the mission impossible movies, there is still a chance however slim.

The American public education system is broken, and it cannot be fixed – at least not in the traditional ways or with the “new and improved” programs and initiatives that have been tried over the last 40 years. More after-school tutoring – no. A new on-line program – no. More aligned professional development – no. Better recruitment, better teacher prep, a longer school day, a different school calendar, more Chromebooks, more libraries, smaller class sizes – how many iterations of these do we have to have before we say, “no, these cannot fix the education system.”