Sunday, October 13, 2013

With Top-down Universal Standards, You Get This...

This video has been making the rounds in the last twenty-four hours. It's Rob Saxton, Oregon Deputy Superintendent laying down some law. We won't tolerate "independent contractors." Teachers will follow the program, or else. He will be a good natured SOB, which appears to mean ruling with an iron hand in a velvet glove.

Thing is, he's not wrong, exactly. If you are going to impose a top-down program across a large organization, nothing short of totalitarian rule will work.

If Ray Kroc tells his franchise managers across the country, "Yeah, just have your cooks whip up those hamburgers the way they like them," McDonald never becomes successful. If the shadowy faces behind Sub-Way tell their stores to just go ahead and slap sandwiches together with their own individual flair, they don't end up running the fastest-growing food outlet in the universe.

So people who are thinking that Saxton (who is, as near as I can tell, absolutely a lifelong career educator with real classroom experience) should loosen up and be more reasonable, or should be fired and replaced with a more reasonable guy-- these folks are missing the point. If Oregon's plan is to institute a standardized uniform approach to education, Saxton is exactly the guy for the job.

People who think that CCSS and reform-driven standardization that gets us all "on the same page" are swell and that if just make sure the bosses are nice guys and not big meanies like Saxton or Arne Duncan-- these people are not thinking this through. For those plans to work, nothing less than a tyrant will work. If we let teachers just modify the plan to suit their own strengths and students and preferences and professional judgment, the plan will fail. You have to stamp out the independent contractors.

You cannot have nationwide standardized education reform without this kind of leadership. You cannot have one without the other.

So if you think a national curriculum with a carefully coordinated program that keeps all teachers on the same page, get used to this guy, because he is the face of leadership in that world.

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