Tuesday, August 11, 2015

In this case, 'autonomy' is just a four-letter word

Rahm and Jackson offering a few principals "autonomy".
Blaine principal, Troy LaRaviere gets into it with Rahm's new CPS’ chief education officer, Janice Jackson after she dutifully defends Forrest Claypool's so-called "principal autonomy" plan, otherwise known as Independent Schools Principal (ISP) program.

I'm a great fan of teacher autonomy. But whenever you hear the word autonomy coming down from one of the world's great top-heavy, command-and-control bureaucracies, you have to ask yourself -- autonomy from whom and for what?

In this case, Claypool and Jackson want to give a gaggle of top principals, a little freedom (mostly what they already have) from their own network chief's bureaucratic oversight and offer them a taste of professional community -- meeting with each other.

It reminds me of the day former CEO Arne Duncan asked us to start a charter school instead of a small neighborhood public school, so that the system wouldn't "fu*k with you". I replied, "But you ARE the system. Why don't you just not fu*k with us?" He looked befuddled but finally relented.

The outspoken LaRaviere, whose school rates among the district's highest, smells something fishy. He's not just after some autonomy for himself FROM the system. He wants to change the system and is forthright about it. He thinks that the strongest school leaders should be working together with and sharing their knowledge and experience with the others, rather than forming their own elite club.

JJ says:
Exempting participating principals from network oversight is not just popular with principals — it also enables our district to focus our energy and the limited dollars we have available on the schools that most need our support and guidance. 
Interesting to note that prior studies of the first wave of Chicago school reform found that the schools that progressed the fastest and farthest were those which had the least heavy-handed intervention from central office.

TL responds
 The solution to this situation is to ensure that skilled and competent educators lead networks–not to entice effective principals to leave those networks while principals who need support are left with the least effective network leaders in the system.
 Actually, this sounds a lot like the old charter school argument. If charters are so great, why have them split off from and compete for resources with the rest of the district, rather than having them share their innovations (if there are any to share) with the rest of the schools)? Two-way learning is always best.

Sounds to me like TL and JJ (or maybe RE) ought to switch jobs.

1 comment:

  1. My mom had a saying:
    "Same girl, different skirt". AMPS, ISP. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top. I bet you could name a million more.
    Same old, same old from the bureaucrats....
    Trying to reinvent the wheel.


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