Tuesday, September 27, 2016

FL: Bad Retail Management As Ed Policy

If you have worked in the retail world, you have probably had this experience. If you teach in Florida, you're about to.

Somewhere way up the corporate ladder, some guys in a board room declare that they predict an awesome quarter for the corporate coffers. This awesome result is based on an uptick in revenue and that uptick is based on... well, it's based on pressuring the sales force. Not improved product, not greater demand in the marketplace, not any attempt to create a new relationship between the brand and the customers. Not any of the things that would actually be the responsibility of those boardroom guys.

No, what's going to happen is that the new Sales Goal Figures will be passed down the ladder until we finally arrive at a meeting between a store manager and the sales staff in which the store manager informs them that they are expected to move another $2,000 in merchandise per week.

What's the corporate assumption here? Well, it's not that the product or the corporate structure needs to be tweaked or fixed. The assumption is that, somehow, the sales staff could sell more if they just...well, did it.

Management may offer or impose some new policies or procedures (develop a customer call list and hit it every day, cry when you are trying to land the sale, or tackle customers when they get in the door and don't let them up until they buy something). But these are implemented backwards, after the fact. In other words, corporate doesn't say, "We've got some new ideas that we think will improve your sales so much that we can reasonably raise your goals." No-- it's "We are going to raise your goals. Here are some wild-ass guesses at things that might help you meet those goals."

This is bad management, and it can be found all over the retail sales world. It burns out sales people, gives management an excuse to keep wages low (you didn't meet your numbers again this month, Vern), and worst of all, it encourages sales staff to view customers as adversaries (I need to get your money away from you-- stop holding out on me).

Florida remains determined to establish itself as the leading state for Bad Education Policy (watch out, North Carolina) and so the Florida Board of Education decided to set "ambitious" education goals for state schools.

According to the strategic plan, reading and math scores on the Big Standardized Test are going to go up 7% by the 2019-2020 school year. So math and ELA numbers will both go from 52% to 59%. The graduation rate will increase 7.1% because that will increase the rate from 77.9% to the nicely rounded 85%. Postsecondary completion is going to increase by 10%!

Florida calls this a "strategic plan," and that's sort of accurate if you overlook the fact that there is neither a plan nor a strategy.

This is not a coach saying, "We've got these great new plays to try and I think they will raise our scoring 25%." This is a coach saying, "Get out there and score more points. Somehow. I don't know how-- just do it, dammit!"

This is not a corporate bigwig saying, "With the new strategies we have in place, we project the following improvements in our revenues next quarter." This is a corporate bigwig hammering his fist on the desk and hollering, "Bring in another ten percent in revenues or I will fire the whole damn lot of you." This is the heads of Wells Fargo saying, "I want every front line salesman opening 50 new accounts per month. I don't know or care how they're going to do it-- just tell them to do it or I'll can their asses." (The part where the corporate boss acts surprised by rampant cheating comes later.)

What's the theory here? Children will be getting smarter over the next few years? Teachers have been holding out and when faced with super-duper targets they will finally shrug and say, "Well, okay, I guess I'll finally really try to do my job." Or is it just that if we have a "bold" target set for no reason other than we aimed somewhere between "too small to be impressive" and "so large it's clearly ridiculous" and then we just threaten teachers and schools to go ahead and hit it, somehow.

This, of course, was the operating theory of No Child Left Behind-- set goals based on unicorn tears and fairy whispers and then just threaten people real hard so that they'll meet those goals. The whole rest of the country has since figured out that the NCLB operating theory is junk and gets you a whole lot of Nothing Good. So kudos to Florida board members for throwing one more burning sack of donkey poo that is the dumpster fire of Florida education policy. If nothing else, you are making many other states look enlightened and wise by comparison, and for that, those of us who don't teach in Florida thank you.


  1. Another excellent and entertaining analysis.

  2. Just started teaching in Florida this school year and am ready to stop teaching in Florida today. I've taught in five other states and this place is the truly unbelievable.

  3. I did teach in Florida for 30 years. I can divide my career into two epochs, the pre and post testing epochs. In the pre-testing epoch, yes, my pay was low and my school and classroom were woefully underfunded, but, as long as I kept my gradebook up to date and my referrals to a minimum, I was left alone to teach. In the post-testing epoch, while are the aforementioned ills remained or worsened, the academic freedom I had was stripped away in favor of a prescribed, bureaucratic bag of teaching tricks was pushed on me by constant micro-management, hectoring and threats. Sadly, as I write this, our oleaginous superintendent Carvalho and his union leader pet are holding a joint press conference celebrating no "F" schools...smh...