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1 Does District Leadership Matter?

Robert J. Marzano Solution Tree Press ePub

 

In his state of education address in 1987, Secretary of Education William Bennett attached the nickname “the blob” to administrators and the administrative system in public schools. The blob, he argued, is made up of people in the education system who work outside of classrooms, soaking up resources and resisting reform without contributing to student achievement (Walker, 1987). According to Bennett, the term blob is an acronym for “bloated educational bureaucracy.” Those who are science fiction aficionados might also make a connection to the 1958 sci-fi movie The Blob starring Steve McQueen and the 1988 remake starring Kevin Dillon. For those who are not, the blob was an amorphous mass from outer space that assimilated all living tissue in its path. Those organisms unlucky enough to be assimilated by the blob ceased to exist as independent entities. Rather, they existed only as a source of nutrients for the blob. Whether or not Bennett intended the allusion to the other-worldly blob, the moniker was not a complimentary one for school administrators and the administrative system.

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2 Putting Our Findings in Perspective

Robert J. Marzano Solution Tree Press ePub

 

The findings reported in chapter 1 imply new hope for and a new view of district leadership—one that assumes district leadership can be a critical component of effective schooling. Under this new view, district leaders should adopt a proactive stance that ensures certain uniform behaviors occur in every school in every classroom. This stands in contrast to what we believe is the current perspective that district leadership should allow schools to operate as independent entities and allow the teachers within those units to operate as independent contractors. This perspective has been driven by the theory that districts and schools are by definition loosely coupled systems.

In a series of articles, Karl Weick (1976, 1982) set the stage for what is arguably the reigning view of districts and schools as administrative units. Drawing on general organizational theory (such as Glassman, 1973), he made the distinction between tightly coupled and loosely coupled organizations. He noted that tightly coupled organizations have four defining characteristics:

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3 Setting and Monitoring Nonnegotiable Goals for Achievement

Robert J. Marzano Solution Tree Press ePub

In this chapter, we address the findings from our study involving setting nonnegotiable goals for achievement and monitoring nonnegotiable goals for achievement. In the next chapter, we address our findings regarding setting nonnegotiable goals for instruction and monitoring such goals. In effect, we have separated and recombined the following two leadership actions from our study.

1. Establishing nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction

2. Monitoring the nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction

We do this for ease of discussion. Setting and monitoring goals for achievement involve coordinated activities, as do setting and monitoring goals for instruction.

To a great extent, our findings regarding nonnegotiable goals for achievement (this chapter) and nonnegotiable goals for instruction (the next chapter) are defining features of effective district leadership in that they should be the centerpiece of a comprehensive district reform effort. Figure 3.1 (page 24) represents our perceptions of the relationship between nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction and the other findings from our study.

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5 Collaborative Goal Setting, Board Alignment, and Allocation of Resources

Robert J. Marzano Solution Tree Press ePub

This chapter addresses three related findings from our study: (1) collaborative goal setting, (2) board alignment with nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction, and (3) allocation of resources to support nonnegotiable goals. While setting and monitoring nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction are certainly the centerpiece of the type of changes necessary for districts to approach high-reliability status, the three factors addressed in this chapter are necessary conditions for these goals to be met. Collaborative goal setting is the vehicle used to establish nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction; board alignment is necessary to sustain long-term attention to these goals; and resources must be allocated to fund activities such as professional development, scheduling changes, and the like. Recall that in chapter 3, we represented the relationship between collaborative goal setting, board alignment, allocation of resources, and nonnegotiable goals for achievement and instruction as depicted in figure 5.1 (page 72).

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4 Setting and Monitoring Nonnegotiable Goals for Instruction

Robert J. Marzano Solution Tree Press ePub

Setting and monitoring nonnegotiable goals for instruction at the district level might not be as obvious a need as is setting and monitoring nonnegotiable goals for achievement (see chapter 3). However, recall the findings reported in chapter 2 from the OECD study of the highest-performing school systems in the world. All ten systems focused on ensuring effective teachers in every classroom. It was their singular method of enhancing student achievement.

A singular focus on instruction is quite consistent with the NCLB mandate of 2002. Specifically, in the 2002 report Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge (U.S. Department of Education), then Secretary of Education Rod Paige noted,

Just a few months ago, President George W. Bush and the United States Congress issued a compelling challenge to our nation: to ensure that in this great land, no child is left behind. . . . As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, Congress issued another challenge to ensure that, by the end of the 2005-2006 school year, every classroom in America has a teacher who is “highly qualified.” After all, only with a talented teacher in every classroom will our students have the opportunity to excel. Will our nation meet the “highly qualified teachers” challenge? As this report explains, this challenge will be met only if our state policies on teacher preparation and certification change dramatically. (p. iii)

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