Right and Wrong Drivers for Systems Reform

We are reading and thinking about this excellent recent paper by Michael Fullan, “Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform,” which reinforces our approaches and helps us expand upon them.  Fullan identifies four “wrong” drivers for systems reform in education, clarifying that wrong means not that they should not play a role at all, but that they should not be the dominant drivers. As dominant drivers, they can actually make things worse.  These drivers, and their right counterparts, are:

  • Accountability, vs. capacity building and intrinsic motivation
  • Individual Teacher and Leadership Quality, vs. group solutions
  • Technology, vs. instruction
  • Fragmented strategies, vs. systemic strategies

The systems drivers that are more likely to result in “raising the bar for all students and closing the gap relative to higher order skills and competencies required to be successful world citizens” are, in more detail:

  1. Fostering the intrinsic motivation of teachers and students
  2. Inspiring collective or team work
  3. Engaging educators and students in continuous improvement of instruction and learning
  4. Affecting ALL teachers and students

Fullan writes persuasively that “the glue that binds the effective drivers together is the underlying attitude, philosophy, and theory of action. The mindset that works for whole system reform is the one that inevitably generates individual and collective motivation and the corresponding skills to transform the system.”

In sum, Fullan describes with precision the need for underlying cultural change to drive systems change. No accountability system can in itself drive practice improvements. If assessment is primarily a tool for improvement rather than accountability as sanction, then you shift from formal to authentic accountability. To get there, you need a culture of transparency, engagement, and trust, to build lateral accountability among peers.

This entry was posted in achievement gap, Changing the Discourse, education reform, Policy, school reform and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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