Monthly Archives: January 2016

“If I Could Be an Education Improvement Consultant…

…here’s what I would do.”

Most of us have that One Thing we’re passionate about, to the point that we’d almost consider giving up an insignificant body part or two if we could only make that area our career crowning achievement. Education improvement is mine, but it’s just the door -opener. While that’s big enough on its own, workforce preparation is also an essential piece of the same puzzle. Even together those two are just one element, although a major one, in the grander vision of whole-person development, actualization, saving the whales and the world too. As long as I’m doing the “what if” thing, may as well super-size it!

Improving education requires private sector involvement and collaboration with education insiders. But education and the private sector are not natural allies. That and my private sector roots and obsession with workforce development took over: I just about called #8 below the most essential of the bunch. But the “greater good” potential is much more tantalizing than productivity and profit margins.

Companies need a rich and deep talent pool to survive; they will starve without the necessary quantity of high-quality human resource nutrients. Consider the causal chain: a well-prepared, highly skilled workforce fuels productivity and growth > the education system doesn’t meet companies’ need for well-prepared workers > companies starve to death > economies stagnate > social fabric unravels.

No profound revelations there, right? So how about this: a healthy, innovative education system can do a whole lot more than stock the talent pool. Education can be a catalyst for organizational sustainability, economic growth, learner and whole community well-being and social improvement …a stakeholder “win” all the way around.

Really. That reinforcing loop tells a compelling story, but for another time. Back to the consultancy….

I’ve done a lot of looking into the current state of education improvement, and wrote drafts of some “what if” goals. As it turns out, it’s not that there is nothing being done. It’s all out there: CASEL, America’s Promise / GradNation, Edutopia, Gallup / student engagement to name a few established initiatives. And there are numerous radical and promising new models being proposed. But none have the stickiness they deserve. Each exists as a stand-alone. It may be just me, but it seems all the random stuff could stand to come together under one banner. You can break a twig, but you can’t break a big bundle of twigs.

The “one banner” thing shouts the question: should education be centrally managed / government-controlled? Or should control lie with local school districts? That’s an ongoing and heated debate, but my consultancy is not dependent on the control issue and certainly not the political football game.

My Crowning Achievement Consultancy is reliant on collaboration for the design of a systemic model (accountability #1), pulling the best from all the following individual efforts. So, poof! I’m an Education Improvement Consultant. Here are a few of my starter accountabilities.

(1) Champion a benchmarking initiative with leaders from education, private sector, community and government. Research and design one model, standardizing best practices from the already established efforts that follow. A systemic approach will fully leverage the individual components ensuring broad acceptance and sustainable results;

(2) The Gallup / America’s Promise partnership on student engagement produced a significant body of research and data on the value of engagement in education, including increased levels achievement and attainment. Specific ways to increase student engagement were also identified. Leverage the research and findings to promote higher levels of student engagement;

(3) The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) is the leading organization advancing development of academic, social and emotional competence for all students. Develop a system and supporting culture for meaningful social and emotional learning, using CASEL as primary reference. A complete SEL guide for concept and design through implementation and suggested resources is available, and it’s free;

(4) Promote awareness and effective usage of resources like Edutopia to enhance lesson planning. A nonprofit, Edutopia was founded and is championed by George Lucas;

(5) The Gates Foundation-commissioned report, Teachers’ Views on Professional Development, was released mid-2014. Use the findings to identify improvements in the teacher professional development process and content;

(6) America’s Promise and GradNation target the causes of high school dropouts and how to improve both attainment and academic achievement. Provide expert guidance and resources to leverage their work and improve attainment and achievement levels;

(7) Develop a model of financial self-sustainability based on the private sector paying market value when provided with well-prepared job candidates from a well-stocked talent pool. Research grant / funding opportunities from government and private sources. There are a few prime candidates-you know who you are, I’m coming for you….

(8) Liaison with the private sector to (a) identify employer needs; (b) research and develop appropriate coursework; (c) design delivery mechanism, using both private sector adjuncts and education staff;

(9) What about government involvement? A friend and peer voiced her opinion: “they’ve had their go at it and messed it all up—they are part of the problem!” STEM obsession, standard testing, NCLB….Truth. Could we improve education without them? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be easy. Recruit a coalition and lobby for more effective, learner-friendly, whole-person development policies.

(10) Provide teacher / staff and private sector training in support of the approach.

Bunches here. What if I had to choose only one of these to craft my crowning achievement around? Not much deliberation needed: Develop a system and supporting culture for meaningful social and emotional learning(SEL).

(1) The heart is the gatekeeper to the analytical mind. Proven over and over: it’s simply more effective to address the human issues before tackling “thing” stuff;
(2) SEL absolutely drives student engagement levels = attainment, achievement, success;
(3) Provides the best shot at helping to repair our messed-up society;

The real driver behind the #1 designation is that I’ve accidentally discovered the most fulfilling work I’ve ever been involved with: seeing young peoples’ eyes shine as they discover their emotions, dreams and values, and they begin to believe that life and the world around them is pretty cool.

Just for starters…what are your thoughts? Better, what is your role?