Kiderman notes that most schools providing personalized instruction will say that the shape of their personalization "depends." Which leads Kiderman to wonder, depends on what?
“Well,” they begin, “our teachers are talented professionals and we empower them to make their own decisions. We give them support and tools and perform observations several times a year. But ultimately we give them the flexibility they need to be successful and different teachers do things differently."
Oh, that damn flexibility. No, Kiderman wants to see more fidelity and faithfulness.
In the context of personalized learning, “fidelity” refers to the faithfulness of individual teachers and classes to the school's driving instructional philosophy and approach. Do teachers actually stick to the school’s chosen personalized learning plan? Do they use the software and review/utilize data as often as they should? Do they take advantage of the power of the model, tools, and data to differentiate instruction on a daily basis?
It occurs to me that Kiderman has confused "fidelity" with "compliance." Vendors like 2 Sigma Education are providing an excellent program in a box, with nifty materials and handy protocols. Teachers who insist on acting as if they are trained professionals who know something about education and their students just mess everything up. Follow the instructions, dammit. We laid out a perfect program-- now do as you're told, like a good little content provider.
Kiderman offers more evidence of the problem by way of conversations he has had with content providers and sales reps, and they say that shockingly few of the teachers follow the program that these good hearted vendors have provided. It is almost, one might conclude, as if teachers think they work for someone other than the content providers.
Kiderman says this "problem" is "swept under the rug." I disagree. In many schools with which I am familiar, teachers are pretty open-- as soon as the company sales rep/trainer (you know-- the fresh-faced one that taught for one year and bailed because teaching is hard but sales repping pays well) has left the room, the teachers roll their eyes at the bad advice and silly instructions provided by the rep and get to talking abot which parts of the program are actually useful, and which will need to be jettisoned.
Now you probably think that Kiderman sounds like the same sort of corporate systems and standardization guy who would compare teaching to working in a McDonalds. Nope. He's the kind of corporate tool who would compare teaching to working in a Starbucks.
If you want to experience the power of fidelity, fly halfway around the world to a country you’ve never visited and purchase a latte at Starbucks.
I find his support for this viewpoint striking. He does not say that Starbucks or Amazon Prime or a Westin hotel are better because they are internationally standardized, but because the experience of having that service experience untouched by any specifics of locality. "there’s a certain sense of reliability and comfort that comes with being able to expect and trust that your needs will be met predictably and successfully no matter where you happen to be."
Reliable, comfortable, predictable-- yes, those are the qualities we strive for in education. A product that has a bland sameness no matter who the customer or the provider are.
I'm pretty sure that anybody who thinks Starbucks and my classroom are comparable enterprises has nothing useful to say about education. This is not fidelity. It is standardization, cold and stripped of any human qualities and filled with complete disregard for the people it purports to serve-- the students. That would be different from the people it actually serves-- the corporations that find one-size-fits-all maximizes ROI and allows scaling up operations for greater profit and less fuss.
There's a comment section, so you can go share your thoughts. Kiderman tells us to stay tuned for Part II, in which he will explain how beautiful standardized compliance can be inflicted on the education system. Don't know if I'll make it back for that.