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Leading to Reform: November 4

This week’s letter highlights an invitation to an Alverno Meeting about Schools That Defy the Odds on November 14, election news with an emphasis on education reform, how technology is changing how students learn — not for the better, and the case for growing senior leaders within the organization. As always, we link as always to an array of columns and pieces spanning the ideological spectrum on leadership and reform.

Education Reform on the Ballot in Several States
On November 6, voters in several states will weigh on some of the most contentious issues in public education, including teacher tenure, charter schools and merit pay for teachers. If you look carefully, you will see the national fight over education reform has hit the ballot box and the campaigns have been fierce and often nasty.
In one corner: proponents of dramatically overhauling public education, including several of America's wealthiest families, led by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Wal-Mart heir Alice Walton. They seek to inject more free-market forces into the education system by requiring schools to compete for students and teachers to compete for pay raises.
In the opposite corner: Teachers unions and their allies, on the left, who say the reformers' proposals would strip resources from the public schools without boosting student achievement.
Learn More...

Technology Changes How Students Learn – All for the Good?
There is a widespread belief among some teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks, according to two surveys of teachers being released this week.

The researchers note that their findings represent the subjective views of teachers and should not be seen as definitive proof that widespread use of computers, phones and video games affects students’ capability to focus and learn.

One was conducted by the Pew Internet Project, a division of the
Pew Research Center that focuses on technology-related research. The other comes from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that advises parents on media use by children. It was conducted by Vicky Rideout, a researcher who has previously shown that media use among children and teenagers ages 8 to 18 has grown so fast that they on average spend twice as much time with screens each year as they spend in school.

Internet and Technology: How Teens Research In the Digital Age: Teachers participating in a Pew Internet study say the impact of today's digital environment on their students' research habits and skills is mostly positive but expressed concern about the potential of digital technologies to distract students. Learn More...

Nov 2012 web header
You are invited...
I invite you to an evening of respectful dialogue and lively discussion at the Alverno Forum on Wednesday, November 14. We will explore the topic, Schools that Defy the Odds: Rethinking the Rules of the Game.  School leaders from the metropolitan Milwaukee region will challenge public understandings of what school success looks like; their schools defy the odds, evidenced by higher learning outcomes for their students.

The event will be held from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in the Sister Joel Read Center, for map and directions,
please click here. The event is hosted by the School of Education. Please share this information with any other interested parties, http://www.alverno.edu/forum/. I look forward to seeing you there.

The Case for Growing Your Own Senior Leaders
Most organizations conduct some sort of succession planning process; few executives feel that they have adequate bench strength. As a result,
according to a 2009 study, only a little more than 60% of first level managerial positions and 52% of senior positions are hired from within.

The results are disturbing, for two reasons:

First, it's more expensive to hire externally, particularly at senior levels. School districts need to run advertisements, pay recruiters, and ask internal people to spend company time sorting through resumes and conducting interviews. There is also evidence from a Wharton study that external hires are generally paid more than comparable internal people. After all, most people won't risk switching unless there is a financial incentive. However, the most significant expense is from lost or diminished productivity. On-boarding to a new organization and culture takes time, which means that externally hired managers may not add full value for months, or even years — another finding from the Wharton research.

The second problem is that it puts the district at risk. Without ready-to-go replacements, jobs can remain open for long periods of time, which can delay projects or reduce the effectiveness of day-to-day operations. What's even worse is that focusing on external hires sends a signal to internal people that they are not "good enough" to be promoted, or that their opportunities are limited. And without a sense of future possibilities, morale suffers and commitment wanes.

What do you think when your best leaders see themselves passed over and the organization is floundering?

From the Sunday Papers...

The Morning After the Morning After
There are two things journalist, columnist and author Thomas Friedman will predict about Tuesday’s election: one is that America’s biggest voting bloc — the center-right/center-left — will win; the other is that there’s going to be a big civil war within the Republican Party and a small civil war within the Democratic Party starting the day after the election, as they’re each forced to accommodate this center-left/center-right victory.

Friedman says it should be obvious how much America is a center-right/center-left country and how much this center — not the extremes — has dominated this election.

The reason the center-left/center-right bloc is dominating this election is because it intuitively knows that the only way our country can progress is with some grand bargains forged at the center. One is a package deal that slows entitlement and defense spending, raises taxes, invests in infrastructure, education and research and institutes tax reforms that unleash more entrepreneurship — all in the right sequence and scale — so the economy is nursed back to health. Another is a deal on immigration reform. And a third is a deal that opens the way to exploit our newfound bounty of natural gas, but with a plan that is environmentally sound and doesn’t divert us from our long-term goal of a clean-energy economy that mitigates climate change.

If Romney wins, it would be because the center-right/center-left concluded that he would approach these grand bargains with the moderate Republican instincts and willingness to compromise that he has been either faking or sincerely projecting in the last month — and would be able to impose that moderation on his party. If Obama wins, it would be because the center-right/center-left concluded that he has been trying to govern from the center, has made progress, but has also been obstructed by G.O.P. hard-liners, and they wanted to give him more time.
Learn More...

In Digital Age, Young Americans Keep Reading, in Print and e-Book Formats
More than eight-in-ten Americans between the ages of 16 and 29 read a book in the past year, and six-in-ten used their local public library. Overall, 47% of younger Americans read long-form e-content such as books, magazines or newspapers.
Learn More…

Articles for the Week:

“If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.” --Denzel Washington

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