February 2010

Earlier this week I attended a State conference for Career and Technical Education. I’m trying to learn all I can about the do’s and don’ts, and the rules and regulations. Now I may not be the brightest guy in the world, but I find the maze of regulations to be, well, amazing. Furthermore, what you learn may vary based on whom you’re talking to. It’s very frustrating.

All of the discussion about what you can and can’t do, and how you can and can’t do it got me thinking about a quote from Tom Peters in his book Re-imagine. He talks about what gets companies in trouble, I would add, what gets bureaucracies in trouble as well. Peters said,

“And yet most of the trouble businesses get into – in serving their customers and in general getting things done with dispatch – is directly attributable to the ugliness of their systems and processes. Over time, even a beautiful system tends to get elaborated and elaborated … and then more elaborated … with every change. Each one made of course, for a “good reason.” Until the whole ugly, sloppy, inefficient, demoralizing, dehumanizing, mess makes everybody unhappy. We end up “serving the system” rather than having the system serve us.” – Tom Peters
Oh so true! It’s not that the people at KSDE  aren’t good people, or they don’t care. And it’s not that in isolation each of the rules and regulations isn’t good, and makes sense. It’s the interaction of all the rules, and all the regulations, over years and years. Indeed it appears to me that instead of serving our kids, and preparing them for the 21st century, we end up serving the bureaucracy.

Perhaps the solution is to unwind the whole big mess. To throw out all the rules and start over again. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. In fact, more and more, we deal with rules and regulations from the federal government. These rules and regulations make even less sense, and do less good, than rules made by the well-meaning people at KSDE.

I know one thing for sure, in the 21st century, a time of individualization and customization, one set of rules designed to cover every situation, for every individual, and every school, makes no sense. One of the speakers proclaimed that the administration wants all of the resources for career and technical education expended on solutions that are creative and innovative. Just so long as every rule and regulation designed to make sure nobody does anything different is adhered to! Proving once again that Tom Peters was exactly right! –  Steve Wyckoff

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Under employeed OR over educated?

by Steve Wyckoff on February 23, 2010

I received an interesting phone call the other day from a consultant who is working with one of the largest cities in Kansas in  determining their workforce needs and attempting to determine why there is a lack of skilled labor available. I had been referred to her by an area superintendent that was aware of my involvement with  career and technical education, career planning, and the Kansas Career Pipeline.

She asked if I would share my opinions with her regarding the shortage of skilled workers. And, as you know if you’ve read my blog before, I have no shortage of opinions. And besides I was in the middle of a three-hour drive and I welcomed the distraction. So we had a very interesting and engaging conversation.

We talked about the fact that our schools, regardless of their mission statement, really don’t intend to prepare kids to be productive members of society in the 21st century. Their focus is much more on college preparation than real-world preparation.

She did remind me of a piece of data I found last week. Four out of 10 college students major in Social Sciences (ex. History and Political Science) Psychology, Communication, or English. Popular careers of these majors include retail store manager, customer service representative, and administrative assistant. These individuals are an example of being overeducated but not underemployed. They simply don’t have the skills necessary to compete for other jobs in the 21st century. they lack the technical skills necessary for high wage jobs, and instead opt for low-wage, low skill, service jobs.

They are highly educated but lack the necessary skills. In our society today that seems to be preferable to individuals who have the necessary skills but lack a liberal education. Perhaps it’s time that we started analyzed this gap to decide what’s most important to us as a society. Then maybe our schools will work to help eliminate the skills gap that we are currently experiencing. –  Steve Wyckoff

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Why do so many authors give advice to overcome education?

February 22, 2010

I used to be surprised, I’m not anymore. It used to be noteworthy when I would read a book and the author would give some advice to help individuals overcome the effects of public education. Today I’m more surprised if I read a book and they don’t give advice to help individuals overcome the effects […]

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Education: Best in execution, worst in strategy

February 19, 2010

I read this phrase the other day and I thought it applied to education perfectly. Best in execution but worst in strategy. It is my observation that we are doing the best job in education we have ever done, doing what we’ve always done. Our execution is excellent. State assessment scores are on the rise. […]

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College of Education: KU

February 16, 2010

For the 34th and 35th time I had the opportunity this week to speak to students in the College of Education at the University Kansas. Twice each semester for the last nine years I’ve had the opportunity to speak to students in Dr. Mike Neill’s class. These are students who hope to become teachers. Usually […]

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Want school reform? Must read for educators.

February 12, 2010

I spent a lot of time thinking about what needs to change in schools, how we do school reform. I also spend a lot of time listening to books. Over the last several months I’ve listened to six books that make great connections for me. I’d recommend the following six books for every educator. Drive […]

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The innovative educator’s dilemma, Part 2

February 10, 2010

In the innovative educator’s dilemma part 1, I talked about how your best customers can drive you out of business if you’re not careful. That your best students with the most influential parents will keep you in the old paradigm of education, traditional schooling, right up to the point that they leave for private schools, […]

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The 10 most important behaviors for students.

February 9, 2010

Of all the things I speak about, the slide I use that lists 10 behaviors that I identify as  “21st-century behaviors” is one of the most popular. I put this list together over the last many years from various sources. To be added to the list a behavior must be frequently mentioned in many sources. […]

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Is public education in a death spiral?

February 8, 2010

Yes. I fear it is. It’s slow, almost imperceptible, but things are either standing dead still, which is the same as getting worse, or getting worse. But for me the most depressing part is we aren’t even dealing with the  most important educational issues. The only discussion going on among mainstream educators is about money, […]

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The innovative educator’s dilemma, part 1

February 6, 2010

Clayton Christiansen wrote a book titled The Innovator’s Dilemma. It’s a wonderful book, I’ve listed it in my 10 most important reads. One of the dilemmas facing innovators, as identified by Christiansen, is that if you’re not careful your best customers can drive you out of business. Let me explain using education as an example. […]

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There is a historic opportunity in education: Don’t blow it!

February 5, 2010

We’ve never seen the kind of financial cuts that are taking place in education today. Regardless of how you feel about school finance, and the ability of school districts to utilize their money wisely, the cuts that are being made today in the majority of school districts are painful at best. Decisions are starting to […]

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But I was there every day! I should get credit!

February 2, 2010

We have an interesting situation developing across the state of Kansas that I suspect has happened, or will happen, and many other states. With the recent financial crisis we are seeing a dramatic increase in discussions about virtual courses for high school kids. To this point in time there has been very little interest among […]

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If you ask high school kids to describe school in one word…

February 1, 2010

If  you ask high school kids to describe school in one word, what word would they choose? I’ve asked this question for years, I’ve had four answers, worthless, prison, sucks, and BORING I do get the occasional answer that varies from these four, for instance I had a professor from a College of education tell […]

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