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Social Contagion And Leadership

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Leaders want to stand out. They want to separate themselves from other leaders, their coworkers, and their predecessors. It's helpful for leaders to remember, however, the importance of fitting in with the group and the power of social contagion.

In order to maintain our social bonds, we mimic others. We buy what they buy, watch what they watch, and talk like they talk. It's a matter of not wanting to be left behind or left out entirely. Take, for instance, the word "curate". Curated consumption has fully taken root, and it seems that anyone and everyone is now a curator. No, there hasn't been a huge museum boom, but we now see exhibits where we once saw products and programs.

Leaders often start trends, but they run the risk of social ostracism if they break too far or too fast from the group. Whom do you mimic, and why? How might you use social contagion to boost your brand?

Tags:  Adaptive Leadership  Engaging Employees 

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A Laptop for Every Student

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Monday, February 27, 2012
 Education Editor at Good Education:

Back in 2001 when former Maine governor Angus King launched an initiative that funded the purchase of a laptop for every seventh grader in the state, he didn't promise higher test scores. Instead, King recognized that tech literacy is a must-have 21st century skill, and all students need it, regardless of economic background. Now 10 years later, every seventh- and eighth-grade student in the state, every secondary teacher, and 60 percent of high school students have their own laptop. The technology costs $18 million per year, but its an investment that's leveling the playing field and bringing in academic results. Read more about how Maine made this a priority

Tags:  Student Engagement 

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Technology for the Classroom - GoSoapBox

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Monday, February 27, 2012
GoSoapBox is used during class to break down participation barriers, keeping students engaged, and giving teachers insight into student comprehension that was never before possible. Learn More

Tags:  Engaging Employees  Student Engagement 

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Rethink Schools - HBR Article

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Thursday, February 23, 2012
In this article the author from the Gates Foundation provides insights into the issues of schools today and the loss of productivity. As our industrial efficiency have increased our educational productivity has decreased. The issue I have with the article is it focuses more on the technical fixes verses the adaptive leadership that is required against such an intractable problem.

In 2008 the Stanford economist Eric Hanushek developed a new way to examine the link between a country’s GDP and the academic test scores of its children. He found that if one country’s scores were only half a standard deviation higher than another’s in 1960, its GDP grew a full percentage point faster in every subsequent year through 2000.

Using Hanushek’s methods, McKinsey & Company has estimated that if the U.S. had closed the education achievement gap with better-performing nations, GDP in 2010 could have been 8% to 14%—$1.2 trillion to $2.1 trillion—higher. The report’s authors called this gap "the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.”

The implications could not be clearer: The United States must recognize that its long-term growth depends on dramatically increasing the quality of its K–12 public education system.

How Bad Is It?

By practically any measure, the quality of public K–12 education in the United States is dismal. Of the high school seniors who in 2009 took the biennial National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, fully 74% scored below proficient in mathematics, 62% in reading, and 79% in science. Within those sorry aggregate scores lay the familiar disparities among black and Hispanic Americans, who lag behind their fellow students on the exams by as much as 20 to 30 points. Poor K–12 achievement has a direct impact on success in higher education. Even though U.S. students have been getting into college in ever increasing numbers over the past 20 years, the college graduation rate has not risen. Over the past 30 years, nearly every labor-intensive service industry in the U.S. has seen dramatic increases in productivity, while public education has become roughly half as productive—spending twice the money per student to achieve the same results. Rethinking Schools ....

Tags:  Change 

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Is Sweden's Classroom-Free School the Future of Learning?

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The traditional setup of school classrooms—straight rows of desks with accompanying chairs—doesn't do much to foster creativity or collaboration. Many experts have proposed 
redesigning classroom furniture, but a Swedish school system wants to take things a step further. Vittra, which operates 30 schools in Sweden, is seeking to ensure learning takes place everywhere on campus by eliminating classrooms altogether. (Continue Awesome Article)

Tags:  Change  Creativity 

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Escape Velocity

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Tuesday, January 17, 2012

If you want to escape from the pull of earth’s gravity, you need to jettison away at 7 miles per second. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the greater the gravitational pull, the greater speed you must go to escape.

When you’re looking to change your life and escape an organization, you are subject to gravitational forces. Maybe it’s the organization’s history, likable coworkers, a respected boss, favorite clients, or specific attractions of the environment or culture. Maybe it’s family, mortgages, tuition, commitments to charities, or other obligations. These forces combine to keep you in your current orbit. They’re harder to escape than you might imagine.

It takes considerable speed and determination to escape the gravitational pull of an organization–particularly a good one. Make sure you have the impetus and support to reach "escape velocity.” If you don’t, you might find yourself back in the same orbit or worse–crashing.

Tags:  Change 

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Education is knowing where to go to find it

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Tuesday, January 17, 2012
"An education isn‘t how much you have committed to 
memory, or even how much you know. It‘s being able to 
differentiate between what you know and what you don‘t. It is
knowing where to go to find out what you need to know; and 
it‘s knowing how to use the information you get."
                          — Attributed to William Feathe

Tags:  Quote 

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Provoking Superintendents’ Thinking on Change and Personalized Learning

Posted By Mary Rubadeau, Sunday, December 18, 2011
Updated: Sunday, December 18, 2011
Richard GerveerColorado superintendents and school board members experienced a powerful and provocative keynote address and dialogue with high school students by Richard Gerver, a London educator and writer, at the Colorado Association of School Boards Conference (CASB) on December 10th, 2011. Gerver challenges educational leaders to reinvent schools that respond to individual learning needs and interests by embracing innovation and change.

Using examples from his work with Google and observations of the Shanghai education system, Gerver makes a strong case for preparing students with the
performance skills to be creative thinkers and self-starters. 

The audience of 1000 Colorado school leaders and policy makers was inspired by Gerver’s personal
stories and experiences of working with Google to uncover the employee skill set that the company is recruiting for. The essential question emerges: how can school systems prepare students for future jobs in the changing landscape of technology and employer expectations? Determining the answer requires a transformation in the structures and processes that drive our education system.

Gerver remarks, "Most schools control kids, not empower them. They focus on content, not competencies.” The lessons he shared from Shanghai point to a system that has made a commitment to providing learners with opportunities to develop skills in collaboration and communication. Richard Gerver proposed that if Shanghai were a country, it would have the best education system in the world because of their relentless focus on innovation.

Gerver invited six high school students to the stage to dialogue with him about what inspires their best learning. The student leaders from across Colorado openly and fiercely reported on the importance of personalizing learning at all grade levels, providing choice in courses and apprenticeships, creating cultures that embrace risk taking without fear, and making learning of content and skills relevant to their
future goals. They students reinforced a solid message from Richard Gerver that both England and the US need to embrace change, innovation and personalized learning to prepare our students for success in the future.

Tags:  Alignment  Change  Leadership  System Leadership 

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Immunity to Change - The Book

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Monday, November 28, 2011
A recent study showed that when doctors tell heart patients they will die if they don't change their habits, only one in seven will be able to follow through successfully. Desire and motivation aren't enough: even when it's literally a matter of life or death, the ability to change remains maddeningly elusive. Given that the status quo is so potent, how can we change ourselves and our organizations? 

In Immunity to Change, authors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey show how our individual beliefs--along with the collective mind-sets in our organizations--combine to create a natural but powerful immunity to change. By revealing how this mechanism holds us back, Kegan and Lahey give us the keys to unlock our potential and finally move forward. And by pinpointing and uprooting our own immunities to change, we can bring our organizations forward with us.

This persuasive and practical book, filled with hands-on diagnostics and compelling case studies, delivers the tools you need to overcome the forces of inertia and transform your life and your work. 

When it comes to change, desire and motivation aren t enough. Kegan and Lahey examine why change is so hard and offer innovative, practical insight to overcome the internal and external obstacles and to meet the challenge of change. Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair, Disney Media Networks; President, Disney-ABC Television Group

Tags:  BookAdaptive Leadership  Change  Leadership 

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Eden Prairie Schools Superintendent Dr. Melissa Krull Charters the Right Course for Schools

Posted By Gary B. Cohen, Monday, November 28, 2011

Article from Star and Tribune Minneapolis

A student achievement gap was narrowed by actions that considered the big picture.

Usually I am excited to see Eden Prairie's name in the newspaper, but not when the story is unfair, and particularly not when it seeks to damage the name of its former school superintendent, Melissa Krull.

Parents advocate for their own kids -- it's perfectly natural.

But a superintendent must advocate for all kids, especially those whose parents may not have the time, money or expertise to hire lawyers, create social-media campaigns and capture the attention of the local conservative columnist ("Eden Prairie had to suffer a foolish plan," Katherine Kersten column, Nov. 20).

For the past nine years, Krull could have stuck with the status quo. The Eden Prairie schools district has an excellent reputation and high academic performance. Why do anything to jeopardize one's position and career?

I know why. The first year of "No Child Left Behind" testing (the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment exams), I sat with Krull in her district office as she looked at Eden Prairie's scores. She told me that she literally couldn't sleep at night knowing that our students of color were performing so much lower than were white students.

Not willing to settle for the usual routines that were working for most kids but clearly not all, Krull instigated changes intended to close the achievement gap. The district undertook efforts that were research-based, conducted with the guidance of the National Urban Alliance and the Pacific Education Group.

Guess what? The efforts paid off!

Susan Eaton, director for the Houston Institute on Race and Justice at Harvard, wrote about Eden Prairie in a report published on behalf of the National Coalition for Diversity in Schools, stating that "in 2008, in Eden Prairie, 44 percent of African American students passed the state's MCA/MTAS test in reading.

By 2011, 65 percent of African American students had passed the test.During that period, Hispanic students' pass rate increased from 59 percent to 71 percent.

"White students increased their passage rate from 86 percent in 2008 to 91 percent in 2011. The gap between white and African American performance narrowed from 42 percentage points in 2008 to 26 percentage points in 2011. And the gap in reading passing rates between Hispanic students and white students narrowed from 27 percentage points in 2008 to 20 percentage points in 2011."

These are the highest reading and math scores in the district's history. And did you notice? Everyone is doing better.

District leaders knew that allowing segregation to occur and grow in any part of the community or within any school would ultimately lead to greater income and racial inequity and increased academic disparities.

The readjusted boundaries prevent any racial or low-income isolation, which research shows contributes to lowered academic performance.

There have certainly been voices of opposition along the way, but, as a former school board member, I know that the vicious personal attacks and public vilification damaged and continue to diminish one of the district's most valuable assets: its reputation.

There have been petitions drawn and surveys created, but, as a current math teacher with a master's degree in applied mathematics, I know that statistics don't tell the whole story.

I know that people with strong negative opinions are the most likely to make noise, while people who are content rarely make an effort to announce, "Things are just fine."

(By the way, the drop in enrollment of 300 students is due mainly to having an incoming kindergarten class that is smaller than the exiting senior class. Also, one of the 300 is my daughter. She's an exchange student this year, but she'll be back.)

There are concerns about the loss of "neighborhood schools," but, as an Eden Prairie parent, I know that the "neighborhood schools" that some parents wanted to preserve could be more than two miles away from the students' homes and could consist of 800 students (as with my three kids.)

In today's plan, immediate neighborhoods still stay together, but children are more likely to get to know others in their grade, since there are fewer students per grade level.

I am hoping that all adults impacting the lives of children remind themselves that a school district's primary mission is to educate its students to the highest level possible.

Thanks to the vision and persistence of Melissa Krull, that's what's happening in Eden Prairie.


Ann Haines, a former Eden Prairie school board member, is an Eden Prairie parent and math teacher.

Tags:  Accountability  Adaptive Leadership  Leadership  System Leadership 

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