Saturday, December 17, 2011

TOP-DOWN SCHOOL REFORM: trashing teacher morale

One of the most troubling aspects of the recent wave of school reform is that the would-be reformers never bother to ask teachers what they think. Instead, these would-be reformers imagine they can just ram change, however unrealistic, down gagging teacher's throats.

The chief problem with this approach is that it doesn't work. As far back as the 1970's a Rand Corporation study clearly demonstrated that successful introduction of innovations requires willing, highly motivated participants.  And this is particularly true of teachers because their work is done beyond immediate administrative control.

Why do those in charge ignore this reality? Maybe they are so remote from day to day realities that they no longer have the sense they were born with. In any case their insufferably arrogant style of management is time-honored. It dates back to the era when classroom teachers were long-suffering females and the power holders were smug, self-satisfied males.

Some say that teachers stand in the way of needed reforms, and that requires the imposition of non-consultative change. But resistance to change is hardly restricted to teachers. In fact, such resistance is an inevitable response to major change in any organization. And when those changes are being pushed by the same people who look down on you, ignore your hard-won knowledge and experience and can't tell their pedagogical behind from third base, resistance is sensible.

Regardless, teacher resistance to change so frustrates policy makers that if ever they thought about soliciting teacher consent and cooperation they think about it no longer. Instead they  become ever more controlling, autocratic and disrespectful while ratcheting up coercion via so-called "merit pay."

In all of this they show a complete disregard for the negative impact their actions have on teacher morale and the recruitment of anything but sheep into the profession. In short, these would-be reformers have lost all concern for the actual consequences of their "reforms" on those who must carry them out. And that may well guarantee the long-term failure of their reforms.

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1 comment:

Joe DeMeis said...

I totally agree and that is why I chose to use humor to help teachers feel respected and included in decisions. As a result the improved morale did wonders toward improving our school. I even wrote about it for all to see in From Joe's Desk: Making A School Smile (see If schools are to improve teachers and all staff need to be included.