Do a root cause analysis to assist failing schools
The News editorial, “Manufactured crisis,” has merit. However, it addresses only a part of the problem. Certainly improvement has to be a data-driven effort. This approach has been used for quality management in industry for decades.
However, the problem with the use of this approach, as it is currently being implemented, is to place the responsibility for the lack of learning solely on the teacher. The approach should follow the application of quality management in industry. Data are used to identify problems. Then a task force composed of workers, managers, engineers and scientists tries to determine the “root cause” of the problem. In some cases, it is lack of worker diligence or training; in some cases, it is management approach. However, in many cases, it is the lack of proper tools, facilities or raw materials. Once the root cause is identified, a strategy and implementation plan are prepared and executed.
According to a recent article, 178 New York schools have extreme problems. In those schools, teachers, administrators, parents and outside specialists need to roll up their sleeves, do an honest root cause analysis and develop a strategy and implementation plan to address the cause(s) identified. As I see it, there are two impediments to this highly necessary approach. First, the urban teachers unions are very militant. Considering the approach offered by the state, this militancy has some validity. Second, the root cause findings might identify problems that are political “third rails.” These include poverty, race, crime, language, lack of parental interest and cultural values.
Firing teachers rated as ineffective for two years based on student test results is not going to solve the problems in those 178 schools. All that is going to happen is that most teachers will be fired. Two years later, the same thing will probably happen. In these schools, the entire system of teachers, administrators, facilities, languages, curricula, student culture, parental interest and socioeconomic factors should be considered as ineffective and addressed as required.
Robert R. Blickwedehl