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Had a really stimulating discussion with @ToughLoveforX on Twitter yesterday about the Rhode Island situation where teachers have been threatened with dismissal for not agreeing to management measures.

This sort of issue automatically produces a management/workers argument and like most arguments, it's pretty hard to make it black or white.

It would be interesting to explore this further as @ToughLoveforX suggested, so I'm posting this in the hope of widening the debate. This is clearly a topic where we are not going to get a consensus, but smacking the ball back and forwards a bit might help for both sides to gain an insight.

I'd really like to hear people's views (and I'm off to get my tin helmet!)


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I agree with "bear some degree of responsibility" I also agree that schools are teams. In football is a manager loses year after year after year, they get fired. Why shouldn't the same standards prevail in education?
I've never really understood why a football manager gets fired because the players screw up! ;o)
"Why football managers gets fired?' My $.02 to set up a system where at least one person stays focused on the overall situation. Every player is naturally mostly concerned about their performance. Only the manager is naturally focused on the over all picture.
Sean -
My question is how precisely does one "share accountability" How gets comped, rewarded, fired? My experience in project management and project based learning is that shared accountability usually means no one is accountable and everyone is blamed when things mess up.

Clear accountablity is the only way to move away from blame. It's not a matter of being a bad person. It's merely that one can't do this particular job at this particular time. Regular people in regular jobs understand and respect this notion. I can't see why it doesn't apply to education.
I agree with most of the points made by Michael J. The issues that I do have are when you have teachers that get comfortable and arrogant. From the multiple articles that I have read on the Rhode Island issue, the superintendent gave the administrative and teaching staff a choice, the first choice she gave them was the most fair and the best opportunity for the staff to keep their positions. The union picked a fight they shouldn't have. When your school consistently finishes near the bottom of the state, any teacher with any kind of pride in the job that they do should be embarrassed. If your superintendent is coming to you with a solution (which in my experience is rare), you should get the hint that something needs to be done, and the super is probably being forced to make this decision. I think that the union should be sued by the teaching staff for misrepresentation, and the superintendent should be appreciated for doing something that many administrators won't do, stand up to the union.

You say and I agree " with a solution (which in my experience is rare)" I also have no reason to believe that the same Supt who allowed this situation to fester for so many years has a "solution". As I read the stories she was pressured into coming up with a plan to get RTTR money. Working against a deadline she choose one of three choices that were available.

Maybe it would have worked, probably not. But it did serve to get the problem off her desk. Given that reality, the notion that the situation could be mitigated by the teachers doing x,y,z just doesn't hold water.

I must disagree that "the the superintendent should be appreciated."
I agree with you in that the superintendent passed the buck. I had not read anything about the RTTR money. I know that she was pressured by the state legislature.
I don't believe that the situation would have been completely fixed by the teachers fulfilling the requirements of the first choice the supt. gave them. The point that I was trying to make was that sometimes the union will try to negotiate things that they really shouldn't, they should try to work with the administration for the improvement of the school. During the next summer the negotiation's committee can work out some kind of arrangement.
I do believe that the superintendent should be respected in her way of standing up to the union.
I agree that it is great the there was a "solution" presented to the teachers, however, I think that the teachers and their union have every right to have negotiations over what their new responsibilities would be and the changes taking place. If it is written down in contract negotiations then everyone can be on the same page and know exactly what is expected of them. This also gives the teachers something to back them up if the "solution" didn't work or work as well as planned. They can say, look, we've done what was asked, it's not working, let's try something else. Also, I would hope that if the teachers/union had some say in how the changes were implemented there would be more buy in from them, more willingness to go along with the program than a direct order from the top down would create.
Do happen to have any info on whether the teachers and/or the Union proposed a solution to the problem? I know that the UFT and AFT has been doing some pretty interesting things around the States, but it''s very hard to keep track of them.
The problem I've observed in such negotiations is that sometimes certain parties misunderstand negotiations to mean that the discussion continues until they get their way. The right to be heard is one thing, but ultimately the decision must lie with the management.
This is undoubtedly an issue with many more details than I have had the opportunity to learn about in the articles I've read on the web.

I agree with those who do not automatically assume the responsibility for failure rest solely with the principal. I am not familiar with the education system in Rhode Island, and therefore not sure of the extent the relationship played by the school board in the daily operations of the school.

In my experience, districts exist on a continuum that describes the level of site-based decision making power held by the school. For example, some schools may be able to dismiss teachers on their own, while others may require central office involvement. Some schools may be able to hire, or support intra-district transfers, while in others the central office administration may be heavily involved.

Depending upon the level of central office involvement in district operations there may or may not be other fingers that need to be pointed in that direction, as well as at the teachers and site-based administration, and almost certainly there is more to the entire situation than what I've read thus far. It sounds to me like a dysfunctional environment exists at some level, or at all levels, although it seems the parents and students may feel it is not with the teachers.

Where, then, are the dysfunctional relationships in this situation?

MichaelJ's point that the the responsibility for failure at the school level sits first with the principal is a good place to start but it may not necessarily end up there.

I know it is an entirely dissimilar situation, but when sports teams struggle, the coach or general manager are often the ones replaced. It is easier to replace them than an entire team of players, many of whom have the talent to stay. Drawing a parallel to this situation, I wonder if the full 50% of teachers eligible will be rehired? How will those relationships be influenced?

I have more questions than opinions, so rather than continue to ramble I'll summarize my thoughts. Success is a team effort in education, as is failure. Good leadership is essential to success, as are effective relationships. What is done is done, and I don't think there is much value to the students of that school in anyone pointing fingers at this point. What is needed now is a plan for success and it appears the superintendent has one. I really hope we get a chance to follow up on this situation, I'm very curious to see how it turns out.



I think the problem I have with the way you see it is "What is needed now is a plan for success and it appears the superintendent has one." I think it's fair to say that neither evidence or looking at the history of the school's performance support that expectation.

Maybe it will help clarify the convo by separating responsible and accountable. No doubt everyone is responsible. But those with the power must held accountable. As in any enterprise or in a project setting, the team leader or the CEO or Middle management is accountable for the company's or the team's success.

This is not to say they are in any way bad people. Just they were not able to do their jobs. If the world were fair, the one that should have been replaced a long time ago is the Supt.

You ask :

"Where, then, are the dysfunctional relationships in this situation?"

My $.02 is that it starts with the relationship between the Supt and the voters. I don't enough to be sure, but I cannot imagine that the Supt was selected for management ability and educational understanding. Then it goes to the relationship between the Supt and the Principal. The way I see it the job of a professional Supt is to hire and manage the principal, which in this context is middle managment. Next is the relationship between the Principal and the Teachers. In every dropout factory I've been in the level of trust between the two is almost non existent.

And finally between teachers and students and their parents.

I apologize for what might be taken as a screedy tone. But to me it's maddening to see those at the top blame those below them on the power ladder for their own failures.



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