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Creating Great Schools

Posted in all posts, books, education, innovation, management, policy by coleman yee on January 24, 2007

Educators know that there is something deeply wrong with the school and educational systems, and that there’s definitely a need for change. And yes, changes have been made, but real, positive results, if any at all, are barely visible. In fact, resistance is rife, or if not resistance, neglect or grudging compliance, perhaps until management gives up.

Creating Great Schools: Six Critical Systems at the Heart of Educational Innovation by Phillip C. Schlechty is a book that addresses the issue.

Creating Great Schools
But what is wrong? What, exactly, is the problem?

I often hear educators complain about “students nowadays”, who, unlike in the good ol’ days, have less respect for teachers and have little self-discipline. The implication would often be that the fault lies with the students (and their parents and the society), and there’s little the teacher can do.

What educators often miss is that there’s a need for a paradigm shift – a shift from compliance and attendance to engagement. According to Schlechty,

the present system is designed to produce compliance and attendance. What we need are schools that ensure that most students learn at high levels […]. To achieve this, schools must be redesigned to nurture commitment and attention.

Because schools are really complex social organizations, when implementing systemic changes (“educational innovations”), social systems within the organization need to be managed and changed as well, without which the effort in systemic change is almost sure to fail. Schlechty identifies 6 critical social systems:

  • Recruitment and induction systems
  • Knowledge transmission systems
  • Power and authority systems
  • Evaluation systems
  • Directional systems
  • Boundary systems

Schlechty explains in detail how each of the 6 critical systems affect the dynamics of the school system, and some key questions to be addressed by the management.

While this book deals only with the American school system, the same problems often exist in other educational systems elsewhere. And Schlechty certainly seems to have a clear grasp of the problems in educational systems.

An important book for those interested in educational and change management.

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