March 2010

I’m always looking to capture the essence of real school change and a way to communicate the significance and importance of change. Recently I was reminded of one of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, and the word that he often uses. Remarkable. And I started thinking, what we really need to do is to help our kids discover for themselves what they have the drive to become remarkable at.

While I was pondering this question at my desk I was approached by a superintendent who stopped by to tell me a story. He recently picked up his grandson at school. Upon entering the car his grandson proudly proclaimed what his test scores were on a standardized test. He told me that his heart sunk to his stomach. Even before he could tell me that I groaned in disbelief.

Is this what our school system is becoming? Compare the two above thoughts and think of your own children or grandchildren. Which would you prefer? Would you prefer that they discover a passion and drive that sets the foundation for their life. Or, would you like to have them reach the standard of excellence on a standardized test?

No-brainer! I am disturbed and disgusted where we’re heading in public education. When we talked about school change I never dreamed that our focus would be on raising a standardized test scores rather than preparing our kids for their future in the world in which they are going to live. – Steve Wyckoff

Friday I had the distinct pleasure of listening to a panel discussion by educators from Erie Kansas about real school change. Mike Carson, Ted Hill, Rose Frye, and Steve Oliver engaged in a wonderful webcast that lasted over an hour and a half, talking about project-based learning. The most encouraging thing about the webcast was that it dealt with education, and a better way of organizing and running schools to better meet the needs of the students, even though the discussion was prompted by declining resources and the need to dramatically cut costs in schools.

So why the title over under? Well, an over-under or over/under bet is a wager in which a sports book will predict a number for a statistic in a given game usually the combined score of the two teams. I wonder what the over under is for the total number of schools that will change to a project-based curriculum even though it is more effective, and more efficient in educating our children.

I think it will take three major skills on the part of superintendents to pull off what Erie high school has pulled off.
1. It will require great courage on the part of the superintendent to lead this change.  It is a political hot potato to change what we’ve always done in schools regardless of how dismal the current results are.
2. It will require great vision on the part of school leaders. We have been doing what we do in schools for so long that it is almost part of an educator’s DNA. Having a vision, and having the ability to share the vision will be critical.
3. It will required great leadership skill. Making this kind of change will take skills that are rarely called upon to run an existing school district.

So what do I think the over and under will be? One. I just don’t see evidence of leaders who have the combination of courage, vision, and leadership to pull it off. I hope I’m wrong. I truly believe that this could be a tremendous solution to a tremendous problem. Only time will tell if we can make the real school change necessary. –  Steve Wyckoff

Leadership … management … caretaker?

March 25, 2010

The whole question of leadership versus management has been on my mind for some time. Years is in fact. I’ve watched as we were told that principals and superintendents needed to be leaders not managers. And magically, even though they were doing exactly the same things on their job, they became leaders rather than managers. […]

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But what if the national standards are wrong?

March 23, 2010

There is a growing conversation about the need for national standards. But do we need national standards? And what if they pick the wrong standards? I just finished Howard Gardner’s new book, Five Minds For The Future, and as always Dr. Gardner did a wonderful job. But, everything Dr. Gardner talked about, in terms of […]

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Rural schools: RIP

March 22, 2010

Rural schools may be an endangered species. I’ve written many times that I believe that our model in public schools for educating kids is obsolete.  I’ve also written that our goals in public schools are also all wrong. But if we are going to persist in that model then it will take a great deal […]

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What’s become clear to a new, yet veteran, superintendent.

March 19, 2010

I asked my good friend Dr. Bill Hagerman, who is superintendent of the Nickerson-South Hutchison school district, if he would write a guest blog post for me. I asked him to write about what’s become clear to him as he returns to the superintendency. Here are his thoughts. –  Steve Wyckoff The question posed to […]

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Teaching: antithetical to learning

March 18, 2010

Have you ever learned something that later on down the road you realize that your life would have been easier if you hadn’t learned it? Well I have. Several years ago my good friend Tammy Worcester attended a national conference. When she returned she asked me if I’d ever heard of a man named Roger […]

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Brain drain: And the ones who leave are only the tip of the iceberg

March 17, 2010

I’ve written many times about our obsession in K-12 schools with preparing every student to attend a four-year liberal arts college. The data are clear, we need less than 25% of all of our students to have a four year college degree. In fact only about 23% of all jobs require a four-year degree. In […]

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School: it’s all about self directedness and complex problem solvers!

March 16, 2010

After a great deal of thought, and lots of windshield time to think about it, I decided if there is one thing, okay maybe two things, that are really important to our kids today, it’s that they become self-directed and that they are complex problem solvers. I’ll be the first to admit that there are […]

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School change: who is it toughest on?

March 15, 2010

Most people really don’t like change, even though there are those among us who love it. In schools the dislike for change is profound. I think that educators are so resistant to change because we simply rarely change. Anything. Ever. Oh, we see the individual teacher who changes instructional techniques, but if you took somebody […]

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Preparing kids for THEIR future

March 12, 2010

I have just begun to read Howard Gardner’s new book Five Minds For The Future. And to my great surprise, I’m being facetious here, in the very first chapter he talks about the inadequacies of our educational system in preparing our kids for their future. I’m actually not here to talk about his book today, […]

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Hot Rod High: Now that’s learning!

March 10, 2010

Okay, so the name isn’t really Hot Rod High. It’s really Peabody-Burns Junior Senior high school. It’s a small school located a short drive straight north of Wichita Kansas. But they have one of the coolest programs I’ve seen. The superintendent is Rex Watson and several years ago Rex had an idea. Rex had a […]

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MACE: My favorite nerds

March 9, 2010

Last week was a hectic week but it ended on a positive note. I got to attend MACE, that stands for Mid America Computers in Education, in Manhattan Kansas. MACE is always one of my favorite conferences to attend, not so much for the presentations but for the people. You see, MACE attract some of […]

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NCLB … a curse on education

March 8, 2010

Even former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch agrees! Well she didn’t exactly say it’s a curse but she did say when speaking about No Child Left Behind, “… I’ve looked at the evidence and I’ve concluded they’re wrong. They’ve put us on the wrong track. I feel passionately about the improvement of public education […]

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What business are schools in?

March 5, 2010

I was recently listening to the book The Knack by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham. It’s a highly engaging and informative read that I would highly recommend. Brodsky and Burlingham, both Inc. magazine columnists, offer a host of advice to budding businesspeople. The thing that caught my attention in the book was a comment that the authors […]

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Which is most important, compliance or engagement?

March 4, 2010

Compliance or engagement, which is most important? I am often concerned when educators talk about engagement that they are actually talking about compliance. Let me give you an example. I’ve seen several surveys that purport to measure engagement but when you look at what they measure they talk about students who get to class on […]

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If high schools suspend athletics …

March 3, 2010

like most states around the country schools in Kansas are engaged in a conversation about making cuts, making changes, and saving money. Schools in Kansas have made substantial cuts already and the worst may be yet to come. One of the discussions that is occurring involves the reduction or suspension of athletics and extracurricular activities. […]

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Four day school week: Good idea?

March 2, 2010

I had the pleasure last week of listening to Randy Rivers, superintendent at  Bluestem school district, and Jerry Cullan, currently superintendent at Medicine Lodge but formerly Superintendent at the Ashland school district. While superintendent at Ashland Jerry implemented and managed a four-day school week for six years. Randy, has led his district to the decision […]

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Erie High School goes PBL and green

March 1, 2010

I think kids at Erie high school have the best opportunity to receive an educational experience that prepares them for their future in the 21st century than any other total school population in the state of Kansas. I had the opportunity last week to speak with Mike Carson, Ted Hill, an architect Allan Milbradt about […]

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