It is clear that the paths taken in the past to close the achievement disparities in American public schools, also known as the Achievement Gap, have not been effective. Despite billions of dollars dedicated to achieving the goal of academic equality in every public school, the gap still remains, and it is as large as it has ever been. We should not be able to predict student success in school based upon factors like race, income, and home language. So, what will it take to close this stubborn gap? Read more
Anthony Muhammad, PhD, is a much sought-after consultant. A practitioner for nearly 20 years, he has served as a middle school teacher, assistant principal, and principal, and as a high school principal.
This post is part of a series on In Praise of American Educators (And How They Can Become Even Better).
Education systems are a vital part of any high functioning society. They cultivate the future citizens of a nation and prepare them be to responsible citizens and skilled contributors to the future of a nation. The rise of the United States as a world power can be greatly attributed to its investment in the education of its citizens. Michael Fullan wrote in his book, The Moral Imperative of School Leadership (Fullan 2003)
“The best case for public education has always been that it is a common good. Everyone ultimately has a stake in the caliber of schools, and education is everyone’s business.”
One universal principle associated with change is discomfort. When a person chooses to change their physical reality and engage in a fitness program, the change process does not begin until there is discomfort. When a person wants to change fiscal and spending habits, there is a point where the desire to spend clashes with the demands of fiscal responsibility; and there is discomfort. Schools are no different. We cannot have comfort and growth at the same time. I am not suggesting that we seek and accept excruciating pain, but we have to be willing to be made uncomfortable if we want to grow individually and collectively. I have outlined two steps to help us understand and regulate the discomfort. The first step is for the individual and the second step is systemic.
Change is a very difficult process, but it is the catalyst to continuous improvement. It tests our ability as professionals at many different levels. Sometimes, when things get too challenging, we tend to look for short-cuts or we quietly surrender. We live in a political climate that demands that we change, whether we choose to or not, but I have found that some organizations are good at creating the illusion of change, rather than being fully involved in the process of change. There are a three key phrases which clearly indicate that an organization is not fully committed to the change process.
Effective leadership is a balancing act of support and accountability. Whenever either one of the principles are out of balance, the culture of the organization and ultimately, the productivity of the organization, start to suffer. As I travel the world and work with schools in search of improved results, I often encounter leaders who are strong in one area, but deficient in the other. This reality alone is not unusual nor fatal, but a leader has to be reflective enough to understand the need to be balanced and develop skills in both areas. Metaphorically, support should be looked at as an investment and accountability is the expected return on the investment.