Saturday, September 3, 2011


Schools are complex organizations that must be lead effectively in order to produce results. However, after many years of research and literature regarding the school leaders role, many administrators still believe that leadership is the art of standardization. Leadership as the art of standardization is a way to control how individuals behave, think, and act indirectly by standardizing the work they do. Those who practice the art of standardization rely on their ability to be direct supervisors, although in many schools this is not possible.

This type of leadership has its basis from the old school of Fredric Taylor. If one applies Taylor's management theories, decisions about school effectiveness are based on standardizing all teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment, and management. The art of standardization, or the "assembly line" approach, encourages the development of instructional expectations with measurable outcomes that are identified and tightly aligned to a set curriculum and to specific methods of teaching. Once instructional delivery systems are in place, teachers are closely supervised to ensure that the mandated curriculum and methods of teaching are being implemented. Students are tested to ensure that the approved outcomes are achieved. However, the "assembly line" theory works clumsily at best. To offset the art of standardization, school leaders need to change their belief systems, moving away from the antiquated roles once practiced in the old school of leadership.

Leadership is about vision and the development of a vision is a process that requires collaboration and the development of trust. Trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for schools to work. Trust implies accountability, predictability, and reliability. It is what keeps schools humming—the glue that maintains educational integrity. In traditional settings of school reform, educational leaders do not take time to assess their position on reform issues even when these issues are mandated through state or federal laws. The typical response from educational leaders when asked why they must make these changes is, “It is out of our control” or “This is what the law requires of us.” A second type of response to the question of why we have to change is to use new mandates as an excuse for developing policies that fit self-centered ideas on school reform. In each case, the educational leaders did not assess their position about why the school should change. 

This traditional approach to positioning limits the ability of others to participate and sets up boundaries that restrict the development of a learning school. The restrictive leadership approach leaves the stakeholders with the feeling that they should stay away from making decisions on their own, and it probably also inhibits them from acting on their own. Using the traditional approach, assessing a position would be that the leaders decide what needs to be done to improve the school and expect the stakeholders to be loyal to their requests. Unfortunately, the results of this position are low trust, negative feelings and comments about school reform, and lack of commitment to school improvement. 

This example reiterates two very important reasons for stressing trust through positioning. The first has to do with educational integrity. A learning school can be compared to healthy individuals; in fact, it is analogous to a healthy identity. A school possesses a healthy structure when it has a clear sense of what it is and what it is to do. Therefore, educational integrity involves choosing a direction and staying with it. However, in order for a school to have integrity, it must have an identity, that is, a sense of what it is and what it is to do. The second reason behind the significance of positioning has to do with staying the course, that is, constancy. Effective leadership takes risks; it innovates, challenges, and changes the school’s culture. Innovation—any new idea—will most likely not be accepted at first, no matter how wonderful the idea may be. If everyone embraced the innovation, it might not be a true innovation. Innovation causes resistance to stiffen, defense to set in, opposition to form. It takes repeated attempts and endless demonstrations before innovation can be accepted and internalized by any school.

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