In response to the post, “School Dysfunction,” a reader writes:

“SC, I’ve been thinking about your comment, “…that soon LYS schools will be the norm rather than the exception.”

I believe this is true. However, after a recent candidate interview with E. Don Brown, we discussed how districts need LYS superintendents and then the public school landscape would really begin to change.

Do you agree it needs to be a top-down transformation before we can really gain ground?”

SC Response
Yes and no. Let me clarify my take on the current school improvement (change) environment.

1. Without a strong and communicated moral purpose for public school change, most schools are simply shuffling the deck chairs while the ship sinks.

2. A wide spread, spontaneous bottom up transformation is a fantasy. If we were all going to join hands, sing Kum-ba-ya, and transform our schools, it would have happened all ready.

3. However, meaningful change can and does happen at the campus level. Sometimes that change is infectious and transforms an entire district. Sometimes it peters out. What campus driven change requires are connectors and salesmen if it is to spread (See: The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell).

4. At the district level, top-down transformation generally has a better chance of sticking than bottom-up transformation. Two factors that heavily influence this are the power of coercion and the power of the herd. The power of coercion simply recognizes that if one has the power to hire and fire, and is not afraid to use it, one can force change. The power of the herd recognizes that most people are willing to go along to get along. If the leader mandates a new norm (and can survive during the short run) in the long run the norm will generally transform. What top-down transformation needs to survive is the support of the mavens (Again, see: The Tipping Point).

Here is how I put this all together.

This is the golden age of education. The instructional tools, practices, knowledge and coaching that we now have ready access to is unprecedented. That changes everything. Now the marginal and average educator can perform at the level where previously only the expert educator occupied. Think golf technology, I can regularly bust 270+ yard drives because better equipment now compensates for my multiple skill level deficits.

Moral, focused and motivated leadership can speed up the implementation and regular use of these improved resources. Leadership at an individual level can create some movement. Leadership at multiple levels can create “A Movement.”

The Lead Your School network of focused and motivated teachers, campus leaders, district leaders, experts and other interested parties are building a critical of mass mavens, connectors and salesmen (have you read the Tipping Point yet) armed with proof points that gives them influence beyond their relatively small numbers. The question is whether or not that influence will drive sweeping changes in the effectiveness of schools or will it fade in the face of complacency and vested interests.

I don’t know the answer, but for the past seven years I have lived on the road working with educators all across the country. I have done this because I believe that the business of school is our country’s most important business. And to do nothing, is to leave that business to hope, luck, and chance.

So LYS Nation, what do you think?

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…