Control the process; don’t let the process control you!”

Am I Missing Something?

Why Does State’s Mismanagement Strike Kids First?

God Bless America, Land that I love, Stand beside her, and guide her, Through the night with a light from above...

Such meaningful words as our country perseveres through one of the most difficult times in her history.  Not so difficult in terms of heartache and hardship, but more in terms of the seeming lack of leadership and vision from our educational leaders.

Throughout the history of our great nation, leaders like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and King have been revered for their leadership, vision, ingenuity, and the ability to get things done.  They guided our country and its constituents through times of darkness and despair.  Their service has stood the test of time, and the principles on which they based this service offer hope to our leaders of today…if they would only listen.

Unfortunately, the United States has fallen victim to its own success, and its people have come to rely too heavily on its leaders for guidance.  I am finding it increasingly difficult to identify a state or national leader who has actually sets aside their personal, myopic agenda for a plan that involves the betterment of all.

This is neither a state nor local phenomenon; the status of the educational system in this country has become a national tragedy – which is why I invoke the names of Washington, Lincoln, and King – leaders and visionaries who stood the status quo on its head. Today’s state and national leaders lack the integrity, courage, and intestinal fortitude to lead a cause that is far greater than themselves.

Am I missing something?

The United States is the richest nation on earth, yet the educational performance of our children ranks between 18th and 33rd in the international community in Reading, Science, Math, and Problem Solving.

Am I missing something? 

In preparation for a recent article entitled "How Dumb Are We?", Newsweek magazine administered the U.S. Citizenship Test to 1,000 naturalized citizens. Thirty-eight percent of us failed. The article’s author, Andrew Romano, stated, "The country's future is imperiled by our ignorance." 

So I ask again, am I missing something?

Our leaders contradict themselves by expecting our children to compete for educational dominance on a global stage then simultaneously targeting Education as the first budget line to go after.  Unless I am missing something, wasn’t the New York State Lottery established to serve as a revenue source for Education?  Hmmm?

On November 8, 1966 New York voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing a government-run lottery.  The proceeds of that Lottery were to be "applied exclusively to, or in aid or support of, education."  According to a June 30, 2010 audit, KPMG stated that the "New York Lottery revenues totaled $7.8 billion . . . , while net proceeds earned for Lottery Aid to Education reached $2.7 billion . . .."

With a $2.7 billion dollar windfall – all intended to fund NYS Education, why is New York State cutting aid to school districts by as much as 20%?

What am I missing?

The answer, I believe, is that I’m not missing anything. The simple fact is that the system by which we fund Education is not in line with what our leaders have outlined as the goals of that same system. In other words, we are mired in dysfunction.

Allow me to illustrate my point using Patrick Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunctions of a Team. In his book, Lencioni identifies these five characteristics of dysfunction

  • Avoidance of Trust. NYS taxpayers are frustrated with our leaders’ vision.  The back-room, corrupt practices that seem to occur regularly and have been well chronicled in the media leave citizens with an insecurity that government leaders are looking out for their own best interests.
  • Fear of Conflict. Our society has become so mired in political correctness that our leaders are afraid to make any decision that may upset a certain constituency. They’ve become paralyzed with fear that difficult decisions will get them run from office. I say that their inaction should yield the same reward!
  • Lack of Commitment. The New York State Department of Education (NYSED) recently initiated a proposal to revamp our educational structure.  The Regents Reform Agenda – Plan of Action will adopt common core standards and develop curriculum and assessments aligned to these standards.  While I applaud their vision, this latest in a long line of curriculum shifts reminds me of the old Winston Churchill saying, "Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  The vicious cycle that has become the wild evolution in the math curriculum over the past 20 years suggests to me that NYSED has not learned from our recent history. For the common core standards to succeed, NYSED must decide on a vision and remain committed to it.      
  • Avoidance of Accountability. As an educator for the past two decades, I have always been encouraged to "own my decisions" and to stay focused on making the right decisions that are in the best interest of my students.  My mentors further encouraged me to stick to a vision of excellence and to avoid making excuses for why I didn’t do something. Instead, I should look for opportunities to make positive change in the world.
  • Inattention to results. "Ad ingenium faciendum (toward the building of character), is the essence of the educational experience,” says Duke graduate and NBA star Grant Hill, adding, “struggling, succeeding, trying again, and having fun within a nurturing but competitive environment builds character in all of us."  Creating the correct fundamental structure can help as you face challenging decisions in life. The basic formula for building a home has not changed from the days of inception.  You start with a strong foundation, and then add a sound supporting structure in order to withstand Mother Nature's mood swings. 

Without strong leaders and visionaries providing guidance, individual agendas become the priority.  I would prefer to see Albany’s decisions regarding Education come with some forethought and based on what's best for the students – not some special interest group.  If our leaders would just take control of the process and not let the process control them, imagine how strong our educational system might be.  Sounds simple . . . or am I missing something?

Control the Process; Don't Let the Process Control You!"