Mike McMahon AUSD
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Leading in Education

I am summarizing the book LEADING in a culture of CHANGE to assess what Alameda can do to accomplish "Student Success -Whatever It Takes" in the AUSD Strategic Plan for 2003-2008.

Each component is summarized:

  • Summary Overview of materials presented in the book
  • Educational Examples Examples presented by author of the book
  • Implications in Alameda How the book relates to Alameda
  • Coherence Making


    Change is a leader's friend, but it has a split personality: its nonlinear messiness gets us into trouble. But the experience of messiness is necessary in order to discover the hidden benefits - creative ideas and novel solutions often generated when the status quo is disrupted. While the world is complex, the key is to "disturb the status quo in a manner that approximates the desired outcome.

    In schools, the main problem is not lack of innovations but the presence of too many disconnected, piecemeal, superficially adorned projects. Beside facing a turbulent, uncertain enironment, schools face the additional burden of having a torrent of unwanted, uncoordinated policies and innovation raining down on them from hierarchial bureaucracies.

    While "disturbing the status quo" appears to contradict coherence making, unsettling processes provided the best route to greater all-round coherence. The most powerful coherence is a function of having worked through the ambiguities and complexities of hard-to-solve problems because the only coherence that counts is not what is on paper nor what top management can articultatem but what is in the minds and hearts of members of the organization. The leader's coherence-making capacity is a matter of timing. There is a time to disturb and to time to cohere. Good leaders attack incoherence when it is a function of random innovativeness or prolonged confusion.

    Educational Examples

    The author has developed the idea of "assessment literacy". It is defined as:

  • The capacity of teachers and principals to examine student performance data and make critical sense of them (to know good work when they see it, to understand acheivement scores [for example, concerning literacy], to disaggregate data to identify subgroups that may be disadvantaged or underperfroming)
  • The capacity to develop action plans based on the understanding gained from the aforementioned data analysis in order to increase achievement
  • The corrsponding capacity to contribute to the political debate about the issues and misuses of achievement data in an era of high-stakes accountability
  • In sum, through focusing on outcomes (what student are learning), assessment literacy is a powerful coherence-maker. Focusing on outcomes clarifies for teachers and principals what they are trying to accomplish and drives backward through the process toward moral purpose. It helps schools produce more coherent action plans.

    Implications in Alameda

    The challenge of coherence making for Alameda's educational leaders at all levels: classroom, school and District is daunting. Ultimately it gets down to that famous Nike phrase: JUST DO IT!

    For an additional perspective of coherence making in an educational setting, see Creating Coherence from my summary of Leading to Learn.

    Back to Leading in a Culture of Change Summary

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    Last modified: November 12, 2003

    Disclaimer: This website is the sole responsibility of Mike McMahon. It does not represent any official opinions, statement of facts or positions of the Alameda Unified School District. Its sole purpose is to disseminate information to interested individuals in the Alameda community.