Tuesday, October 21, 2008

C.R. Hoff on November WSSDA conference

In mid November about one half of the school boards of Washington will send at least one member of their board to the Washington State School Directors (WSSDA) meeting in Spokane to learn more about how to be successful school board members, at least in the eyes of WSSDA.

All school districts are required to be members of this “association.” The employees of this “association” are all state employees! Yet this is supposed to be a lobbying organization for school boards! For the Federal Way School Board this is an approximately a $ 20,000/yr hit for “membership.” Attendance at any of the meetings of the “association” costs extra! In the case of the annual meeting attendance varies between $ 420.00 and $ 515.00 plus transportation, some meals, and housing. One could easily figure about $ 1000.00 per board member and, oh I forgot, most of the Superintendents are also in attendance to escort the timid about the various workshops.

With student achievement at what is optimistically referred to as a “plateau,” one would think that such an event would be designed to make school board members aware of situations in education systems elsewhere that were “moving off the plateau.”

Let’s take a look at some of the titles and descriptions of workshops and speeches that you can hear for about $ 1000.00!

There are three “keynote speakers.”

1. “Mark Scharenbroich's “Nice Bike” principle connects management to front line, team member to team member, company to customer and educator to student. Mark tells the story of "Nice Bike" (which involves half-a-million Harley bikers, lots of black leather jackets, one beige rental car, and the sincere acknowledgement of what's really important) to bring home the value of recognizing, validating and making connections that move people.”

2. “Since 1997, Meagan Johnson has entertained and educated hundreds of audience members from all over the globe. She has written a variety of articles about the multiple generations and has been interviewed for many publications and audio programs. She wrote the Generational chapter in the book Success is A Team Effort. As a Gen Xer, Meagan was extremely proud to be one of the youngest recipients of the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association.”

3. “World renowned climber and adventurer Jeff Evans has established himself as one of the country’s most respected mountaineering guides and has now become one of the most sought after adventure based motivational speakers as well. Incorporating many stunning images from his global adventures, Jeff recounts his role as the primary climbing guide for a blind climber and then creating the systems of communication necessary to guide him successfully on mountains all over the world, culminating with the summit of Mt Everest.”

I am struggling to see how these topics are likely to give school board members any particular insights on how to improve achievement.

I might have suggested that they have someone like the Chancellor of Washington (DC) schools speak to them about the wholesale overhaul of one of the worst school systems in the country. Oops! I forget the first step was to eliminate the school board!

Remember that their highest priority, according to the state law, is to “Establish what is expected of students, with standards set at internationally competitive standards.”

Up to this point this priority hasn’t seemed to be doing well.

There many other workshops that the members can attend. A full list is at http://wssda.org/conference/program/program.pdf and I would encourage you to give this a quick scan.

Look for some titles such as:

Analysis of successful educational programs that lead to international standards.

The successes of some school district(s) in actually increasing achievement to international standards.

Knowledge based instructional programs for academic success.

Use of national, or international, assessments to measure true academic competitiveness.

What’s wrong with the way we do things?

If you see any titles that might suggest an attempt to “get off the plateau,” I would be most interested in learning about your observations. A few years ago a school administrator was discussing this with me. We both agreed that this conference seemed to be focusing on “deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Is this worth the approximately $ 25,000/yr investment by our school district?

written by Charles R. Hoff


Anonymous said...

You could certainly do more with that $25,000 per year simply by hiring your own speakers and holding public forums for the community. Leadership for change and motivational speakers are certainly one facet of education, but the majority of district business should be administrative.

Principals need time to become an integral part of the community. It should be an in depth study. Not a 3-5 year tour. Social change happens slowly.

Anonymous said...

Keynote speaker, Mark Scharenbroich has been in 3,000 + school districts in North America and his presentation focuses entirely on improving school climate (one of Dr. Ted Dagget's pillars) to improve student achievement.
Isn't raising the student achievement the goal of educating our children while being prudent with tax dollars ? By sharing critical information at such a convention not every school district has to reinvent the wheel.
You might do well to do your homework prior to sounding off.

Anonymous said...

How about disingenuous? Motivating an organization that's run by dishonesty and non-disclosure, determined to be reckless with the futures of kids? You should learn how to track students and educate them, before you pay motivational speakers to be inspirational?

Anonymous said...

Stick to hiring principals and teachers from within the community. That's the best way to keep your students motivated. When there's some connection to the community. Your principals at SPS need the community to support them more than the superintendent does. They are the school's first line of defense. What works in 3000 communities is a myth.

Anonymous said...

Republican 'inspiration' reform is top-down, Mark the Teacher, instead of Joe the Plumber, and the one size fits all corporate screw mentality that seems to afflict degenerate Republican thinking.

Democratic reform might spend money like a new bride, but at least there is a heart and they'll manage even with a $5 budget.

Anonymous said...

Rather than focus on raising student achievement, you have a new reform, how to keep kids interested in school. Education is not prescriptive - you can't treat the social ills of this world like the latest cure for cancer.

Whole school reform (Daggett) is another myth and I would equate it to wasteful Republican spending. If Bergerson is the baby in the bath water, Daggett is brown-eyed mullet.