Clarifying Two Key Problems in Schools

Public education and schools are complex systems that may appear to vary from school to school, city to city, and country to country. Nevertheless, in my book, New Hope for Schools, I identify two key systemic problems, 19+1=18 and Tower of Babel.


If school quality is 19, and a new policy is added top down, school quality goes down to 18. It’s a cycle of increasing negative outcomes. Here’s how it works:

  • There are more and more external demands on teachers.
  • Teachers become less able to address their own students’ learning needs.
  • School quality goes down.

Then, desperate new policies are mandated every year –too quickly for teachers and schools to keep up. Over three years, the process can be illustrated as 19 +1 = 18 … 17 …16.

Tower of Babel:

School decision makers speak different languages because they have different expertise. Experienced teachers know how to teach. Administrators manage school business. Educational scholars know how to theorize. Educational lawmakers know law. These are very different skills.

New Hope for Schools explains this in detail, with examples. It provides new “systems” theory and a new, user-friendly participatory practice–the RoundTable– to clarify and address these problems.


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