Wikipedia lists the following as characteristics of the “turnaround model” of school improvement as per the School Improvement Grant:
- “Replace principal
- Use locally adopted “turnaround” competencies to review and select staff for school (rehire no more than 50% of existing staff)
- Implement strategies to recruit, place, and retain staff
- Select and implement an instructional model based on student needs
- Provide job-embedded professional development (PD) designed to build capacity and support staff
- Ensure continuous use of data to inform and differentiate instruction
- Provide increased learning time for staff and students
- Provide social-emotional and community-oriented services and supports
- Implement new governance structure
- Grant operating flexibility to school leader”
Sounds about right, doesn’t it? If a school sucks at making kids Smarter (see what I did there???), the people who work there and are directly responsible for that should be fired. If you object to that wording, tough, because that’s exactly what you mean when you buy into this cockamamie theory. Let’s get this out of the way up front; by stating that you believe teachers should be held accountable for student achievement on the basis of a standardized test, you are saying that a teacher, who could be a friend or family member, should be FIRED, should lose his or her livelihood, if the kids don’t do well on the test. Because you know for a fact that ALL kids, including YOU when YOU were a KID, take ALL tests seriously and ALWAYS perform their absolute BEST on every single test. And yes, that IS what you just said.
Sounds kinda stupid when stated that way, doesn’t it? Glad you agree.
Let’s apply this turnaround model to a slightly different enterprise, shall we? Journey along with me as we play “Turnaround Model: The Government Edition”.
First step is “replace principal”. I say we start small and apply this to the state government; I’m a little daunted by trying to take on the federal government in our first foray. The principal is the school leader, and the leader of the state is…Governor Markell! Sorry, Gov, you’ve gotta go. Nothing personal, I’m sure you were doing a great job, but it’s step one and all. Now, about a replacement… Well, the replacement needs to be well-versed in all the various areas of governance, and should have a proven track record of exploring the issues and offering research-based, sound options for solving the problems. Seems to me that person should be anonymous Delaware blogger KAVIPS. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, PLEASE do yourself a favor and READ kavips. (Spoiler alert: Those are literally the last three honest sentences I will write in this blog entry.)
While you’re doing that, we’ll move on.
Step two is, essentially, fire everyone and make them all reapply for their jobs. The caveat is only 50% at max can be hired back. Soooo…sorry all state employees and government officials, you suck at what you do, and you’ve been voted off the island. I think it’s safe to say that most of the public safety officials can be hired back, along with various and sundry small-time organizations, but those legislators have GOT to go. I’ve got a short list of legislators who should be retained, and it’s well under half. I’d imagine the rest of the employees can be hired at minimum cost, low end of the salary schedule, bare bones training…after all, how hard can this job be? Just throw an ad or two on Craigslist, offer a five-week training session, and call it a day. Couldn’t possibly be worse than what we’ve got now, right?
There’s some crap in there, steps three through roughly six, that we can sort of lump together. When it comes right down to how we expect our new (and returning, let’s not forget them) employees, well, we want them to be doing the same job as everyone else. We wouldn’t want the First State to have worse voting issues than, say, Ohio, now, would we? And we should probably allow corporal punishment and history textbooks that exclude evolution and slavery in schools, like Texas. So we’ll spend millions on a comprehensive, coast-to-coast employee handbook system, including training sessions run by pricey consulting firms, to boost our employee efficiency and effectiveness to all-time highs. It doesn’t REALLY matter whether Delaware does some things better than other states, since in the end all that DOES matter is that every state is doing them the same. Oh, and since it’s highly illegal, possibly even unconstitutional, for the federal government to impose such a system on the states, some states won’t even be following this program, instead opting to continue with their original plan, use the non-federal plan with a new name (because Americans are way too stupid to figure THAT out), pick and choose parts of the new plan to use, and/or adopt the plan but then make and rescind media-frenzy-causing decisions about using the plan.
That brings us to step seven. Increased learning time for employees and the taxpayers they serve. This is a toughie, and the only real way I can see to address this is to increase all the work hours for all employees while giving them lots of tasks to do (we must keep them BUSY, because if they are given time to think or make plans on how to do their jobs better, well, let’s just not travel down that path). Since they’ll be busy doing all this extra stuff, some things will slip, but that is actually okay because then the taxpayers are sitting in traffic longer, waiting for that ambulance a few extra minutes, and generally spending way more time with their loved ones. And that can’t be bad, right? It’s okay if their needs aren’t being met because the state employees are too busy doing all the extra things that have nothing to do with their jobs but prevent them FROM doing their jobs, and it will all come out in the wash. Right?
Numbers eight and nine aren’t really that important. Let’s make that the second phase of the plan, since neither of those things makes a real difference. Moving on.
Number ten. Last step of our turnaround game. THIS is the real meat and potatoes of the plan, step ten. Our new leader needs LOTS of power. Flexibility. I mean our new leader needs lots of FLEXIBILITY. Yeah.
Well, how do we do that? First, absolutely no protection for employees. Our fearless leader cannot be hampered by pesky things like collective bargaining, so any sort of negotiations or contracts will be strictly followed at the will of the new Governor Kavips. Next, the Gov doesn’t need advisers, and I’m thinking the entire judicial branch can be dumped. We’ve already replaced the legislative branch with REAL team players, so we’re good to go. Hire and fire at will, make all the decisions, set priorities and policies as necessary…
And I think that about does it. We’ve now got a highly-functioning, extremely effective…
STOP! Hold the presses! We forgot the most important part! We need a new methodology to determine whether all these changes are working!
Phew, that was close. Wouldn’t want to throw good money after bad…