Tuesday, November 01, 2005

We need leaders not accountants.

  William Blake's painting of Newton as the 'great measurer'. Possibly our Education Ministry's favourite work of art! And too many principals as well! Posted by Picasa

It was interesting to read an article by Elizabeth Moss Kanter saying, ‘number, numbers, numbers - is that what preoccupies the school system today – tests and school performance statistics’?

It is not that she doesn’t believe in measures but if school systems focus too much on complying with such demands they are in danger of being taken over by accountants not leaders.

Accountability, she says, is a loaded word and the important issue is who decides what data is too be collected, measured or tested.

Schools, she believes, should be about people, relationship and students performing to their highest ability in areas that they are meaningful to them. Creating the conditions for this culture to evolve is the real role of an educational leader. The energy of leaders should be in helping all members of the learning community craft a vision, values and teaching learning beliefs that are owned by all; and then doing everything they can to help people achieve their aspirations.

Accountability, then, should be to these agreed beliefs and not to imposed targets. As they say, it is not the targets you hit that count, it is the ones you miss, or were too busy to have the time to think about.

The most important form of accountability is a school review where the whole school reviews itself to see if it is living up to its espoused beliefs and then, in turn, to take actions to remedy any gaps. All the information gained needs focused on the aim of helping people reflect on what they are doing and then to take action to get better.

Agreed indicators or measures need to be developed collegially for the mutual benefit of all. If this were done information collected would be more informative than data collected on narrow range of skills. The question to ask is what would show that the school is achieving the aspirations set out in its vision?

To do this leaders need to create an environment of mutual respect and trust. It should not be about naming and shaming, or finger pointing, or collecting data for its own sake.

This is what differentiates leaders from accountants.

To read Elizabeth Moss Kanter visit www.reinventingeducation.org

6 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

To many principals have fallen into the trap of acting as accountants when they ought to be recognised by others as 'leaders of learners'.

Bruce said...

Schools ought to be accountable for ensuring that the passion for learning stays alive in all students - too often, in the rush to gain 'achievement' it gets put out! And the achievement figures are more to make the school 'look good'. I would like to see 'evidence' of the talents developed of each student.

Anonymous said...

Individually principals lack intellectual courage to go it alone - and they don't have enough courage to be open enough about their own shortcomings to work together. In the meantime the Ministry technocrats have the agenda to themselves.

Kathleen Callon said...

I love your choices in photos.

Bruce said...

Thanks Kathleen