When I was an RA (Residential Assistant) in college my floor got new carpets over the summer.
I walked out to my first floor meeting, with my 20 or 30 freshman who would soon be (already were) smoking cigarettes, consuming vast quantities of alcohol, eating pizza, playing floor hockey, and all sorts of other borderline legal things that I would need to show some judgement in prosecuting. I purposefully walked past all them in bare feet.
I ran through the welcome, the rules, the basic orientation, and then finished with a request that we all be able to walk around bare foot when we left our floor the following June.
It worked, for the most part. For whatever craziness we all got up to, the carpet remained pristine and I got the sense that visitors to our floor were watched a little suspiciously while carrying open beverages or cans of paint.
Any business executive will speak to the importance of culture – perhaps its ability to trump nearly everything else.
So why should education focus so exclusively on funding, on resources, on work rules, on testing? They affect culture, but not in any mindful way. Culture is collateral damage.
A recent working paper from MacArthur Foundation “genius” Roland Fryer and Harvard’s Will Dobbie, makes the case for the important of culture with statistics (he’s an economist – it’s what they do).
I came across the work in a short piece in The Atlantic titled, “Everything You Know About Education is Wrong.”
The analysis is based on “unparalleled data on the inner-workings of 35 charter schools” in NYC. The report shows that, “that an index of five policies suggested by over forty years of qualitative research — frequent teacher feedback, the use of data to guide instruction, high-dosage tutoring, increased instructional time, and high expectations — explains approximately 50 percent of the variation in school effectiveness.”
From our perspective, Waypoint is tailor made to address all five, particularly if you consider personalized feedback to be an important ingredient to “high-dosage tutoring.” Our most progressive clients long ago realized that the humble rubric, made so powerful and flexible inside of Waypoint, could be (should be?) also used to create feedback and data on teachers, not just students. And Waypoint’s Competency-based data model is designed to get actionable, authentic data into teachers’ and administrators’ hands in beautiful, efficient, and compelling ways. But believing in our approach is largely based on a combination of faith, interest in providing students with the best, most personalized experience, and increased accountability requirements.
Contrast the usual debate over education, focusing on work rules, resources, facilities etc with the following presentation by Bing Gordon, partner at VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Bing was with Electronic Arts from the early days (video games), and is on the boards of Amazon and Zynga. Here’s a pic that speaks to his heft (keep this in mind while watching the video, because he comes off as -uh- eccentric):
In this keynote, addressing CEOs of technology companies, much of his focus is on culture. Not assessments to determine whether engineers will be effective at a company, or suggestions that new buildings will motivate employees to succeed: