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Leading to Reform: March 10

This week’s newsletter highlights that innovation at the beginning looks different, opening up principal preparation, identifying good and bad teachers, and minimizing any career regrets. We link as always to an array of columns and pieces spanning the ideological spectrum on leadership and reform, most of those links are now forwarded by readers.

The Front of Innovation is Different
Innovation need is really just continuous improvement or slight improvements to existing products, you are in luck, because that work simply requires that you extend your existing deep body of knowledge. If, on the other hand, you need radical or disruptive innovation, your existing body of knowledge, your scope and frameworks, even your tools and insights may become barriers to innovation rather than accelerators. That’s because true innovation is about discovery, learning and analysis rather than building on past knowledge and success. True innovation is unusual, and requires a different approach. Innovation is the only activity in a business where the people involved are amateurs, because we spend so little time in most businesses working on discovering new needs, learning about customers and markets, and thinking deeply about the implications from discovery and learning.

Let’s consider three factors that make the “Front End” of innovation so different from the rest:
  • Discovery
  • Learning
  • Analysis and Synthesis
Opening the Principal Pipeline
In today' schools, the principal plays a critical role in advancing student achievement. He or she sets the school's vision; oversees human capital efforts including hiring, developing, and releasing teachers; and sets the expectations necessary to improve achievement in his or her school. Without more effective cage-busting principals, it is hard to imagine all schools will close the achievement gap and prepare students for successful futures. And without districts and preparation programs collaborating to work beyond systematic constraints, it is unlikely the challenges and shortages of able school leaders will ever be effectively overcome.
Learn more at Rick Hess' "Straight Up" blog at Education Week…

Choice, Changes, and Money Following Kids (and Success)
Andy Rotherham was at a D.C. school this morning that he’d been meaning to check out for a while and in conversations with them a school transfer issue came up that you hear a lot about in schools, but less so in the chattering about schools. The common assumption – repeated in the media – is that kids are transferring from charter schools back to traditional public schools creating a problem for the latter and a benefit for the former because school funding is based on a one-time count in the fall (so if a kid is counted end of September and leaves in November the school still retains the funding). There is some truth to this – and it’s long past due to modernize student funding so that money follows kids, and follows success, in a more real-time way.  But, as parents get more choice in places like D.C., where options are increasingly prevalent, they are moving kids between all different kinds of schools at different points in the year. In other words, some charters are impacted by this as well (those that accept various kinds of transfers as many do).  When you add in online schools and other non-traditional models (where there are both genuine friction points and also some abuse) it’s clear just how archaic the standard practices for counting kids and allocating resources are. Even accounting for the predictability of funding that is necessary to smooth school operations this is low-hanging fruit for policymakers to fix so that dollars flow to where kids actually are and schools are rewarded for success, not just who shows up at a key time of year.

Where does your school board and district leaders stand on all this? The current system isn’t holding up anymore and should not. Especially how kids are accounted for. Shouldn’t every parent have options to move their kids to different schools and the receiving school be funded?

The Five Top Career Regrets
Thirty professionals between the ages of 28 and 58 were asked each what they regretted most about their careers to date. The group was diverse: A 39-year-old managing director of a large investment bank, a failing self-employed photographer, a millionaire entrepreneur, and a Fortune 500 CEO. Disappointment doesn't discriminate; no matter what industry the individual operated in, what role they had been given, or whether they were soaring successes or mired in failure, five dominant themes shone through. Importantly, the effects of bad career decisions and disconfirmed expectancies were felt equally across age groups.

Here were the group's top five career regrets:
  1. Don’t take or stay in a job for the money
  2. I wish I had quit sooner
  3. I wish I had the confidence to start my own business or school
  4. I wish I had used the time in school more productively
  5. I wish I had used my career hunches better
Career regrets should hold a privileged place in your emotional repertoire. Research shows (PDF) that regret can be a powerful catalyst for change, far outweighing the short-term emotional downsides. As famed psychologist Dr. Neal Roese recently stated, "On average, regret is a helpful emotion." It can even be an inspiring one. But it means that we must articulate and celebrate our disappointments, understanding that it's our capacity to experience regret deeply, and learn from it constructively to ultimately frame our future success.

What are you doing with your career?

Best and Worst Teachers Can be Flagged Early
New teachers become much more effective with a few years of classroom experience, but
a working paper ´┐╝by a team of researchers suggests the most—and least—effective elementary teachers show their colors at the very start of their career. Learn more by reading, "Do First Impressions Matter? Improvement in Early Career Teacher Effectiveness."

Articles for the Week:

"Jerks make the best friends -- They always tell you the truth.” --Jon Boche

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