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The BS Syndrome...

This week I got to accompany Congressman DeSaulnier to an Education and the Workforce Committee meeting. It was a first for me because he had always attended remotely and in this new Congress, everything must be in person. It was exciting to be in "the room where it happens", where national education policy is debated and changed.

In addition to being in the room this week, the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, gave a speech on the Department of Education's new focus; Raise the Bar: Lead the World. One section in particular resonated with me. One of the big frustrations I have as a teacher is that districts aren't valuing the expertise of veteran teachers. They go to conferences, where someone is presenting a "new", "bright and shiny" (BS) initiative that will fix everything in education. The district administrator(s) are mesmerized by the BS initiative and decide that is what teachers must be doing to fix all the issues in the schools.

The problem is that no single change will fix every student. There is no silver bullet. apparently Secretary Cardona agrees with me. Here's part of his speech:

Today, I’m here to tell you that, in education, too, the journey is the destination.
You won’t be hearing about any shiny new initiatives today. But you will hear me invite you to join me on a journey of transformation in education — a journey of raising the bar in education, together.
I know education opens doors – because my wife Marissa and I are proof of it. Because I’ve seen firsthand the way it transforms lives – as a student, as a teacher, school principal, and as a parent.
So when we talk about the future of education, I could not believe more strongly that we have to get it right – and we have to center our work on what we know really matters: engaging students, effective teaching, and quality content — or what Elmore, Cohen, and Ball refer to as the Instructional Core.
Over the course of my career, and I am sure for many of you here, we’ve seen education policy veer away from improving the instructional core.
We have seen shiny silver bullets from the federal level promising to “fix” education. We’ve seen big initiatives with clever names that promise everything, only to fade away after the sense of urgency is over.

In my 30 years in education, I see the damage that can be done when district administration is constantly being lured in by the BS syndrome. Districts spend thousands of dollars on professional development (PD) that puts more work on the teachers. They then move on to the next BS initiative and the process repeats itself. Some districts try numerous BS initiatives at a time (my last district was trying to implement 4), and the result is that we end up where we started. Thousands of dollars misspent, teachers overworked and frustrated and no reliable data to make sound decisions.


The best teachers take pieces from many initiatives and those pieces become tools in our educational toolkit. We need to stop districts being lured in by BS Syndrome and trust the teachers.


Here is the link to Secretary Cardona's full speech. It's worth a read.

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