Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly

Woods' Weekly is written by Superintendent Brian T. Woods and is sent to Northside ISD staff every Monday to keep them updated on local and state education issues.

February 1, 2016     

Good morning! Over the last few weeks, several staff members and I have spent time in Austin in preparation for the next legislative session. Part of that included the Texas Association of School Administrators Midwinter Conference. Among the many distinguished speakers we heard was Sir Ken Robinson. I’ve heard Sir Ken a number of times and consider him to be a true genius in our profession. In his remarks, he gave facts about world population growth and tied them to the need for creativity to be nourished in our schools.

There are approximately 7.5 billion people on the planet now. That number is expected to be between 10 and 12 billion by the end of the current century. If the world’s population consumed fuel, food and water at the rate it is currently consumed in India, there would be room for a maximum of 15 billion people. However, if the world consumed fuel, food and water at the rate we currently do in North America, there would only be room for 1.5 billion – a number we have already exceeded by 500%! That means that we are going to have to invent new ways to generate fuel, food and drinkable water. That will require creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurship. Those are skills and abilities that need to be nurtured and we, in our schools, are in a position to do that.

When we talk about differentiated instruction, giving students some choice in the work they do to prove they know and student engagement in general, I believe that these are opportunities to nurture creativity. This is also one of the key reasons that we offer such a wide variety of curricular choices to our students – so that they can excel in an area that sparks their interest and imagination.

Last week, I mentioned a book and related TED Talk by Daniel Pink. In his book Drive, Pink questions the current business model (and in many states the current education model) of a system based on reward and punishment to motivate better performance. He cites many research studies that determine that this type of system only works in

relatively simple, mechanistic environments. That is certainly not what we want our schools to look like and they don’t. Pink calls for a “new operating system…” built with intrinsic motivation that will improve satisfaction and productivity, “…around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting or part of something important.” Pink defines the components of this new operating system as autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is explained as the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery is the desire to get better and better at something that matters and purpose is the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. That really resonates with me and is consistent with the attitudes of many great educators I know.

This makes me think about aspects of education that so called “reformers” want to push us toward such as teacher performance/incentive pay and A-F ratings of schools. Both of these “reforms” are classic examples of the reward and punishment stimulus that Pink’s meta-analysis shows actually harms motivation and performance when tasks are complex and the answer is not easy to find or is different in every case – the exact kinds of problems we wrestle with every day as educators.

Just like the businesses Daniel Pink criticizes in Drive, our Texas system of education seems headed in a direction focused on the wrong things – the state test as a means to an end; using student test scores to rate and then rank teachers, principals and schools; incentive pay to motivate better performance. These are just the type of things that Pink’s research prove don’t work. In Northside, we work to create a positive atmosphere for all of our employees so that they can lift our students to new heights of knowledge, skills and creativity. With the leadership of our Board, we believe that giving the finest educators autonomy, the ability and means to work toward mastery and a sense of purpose is the key to a world class education. That culture is one of the main reasons that I am Northside Proud!

Just a reminder that today is the last day to register to vote in the primary elections to be held March 1. Have a great week!