The Best Kept Secret in Developing Latino(a) Community College Executive Leadership

This blog reminds me of the Akilah Institute  that I recently visited in Rwanda. Akilah is a remarkable two-year college for women who will be future Rwandan leaders.  This blog describes an initiative that also is playing a key role in creating a pipeline for future leaders, but in this case NCCHC is identifying and supporting Latino(a) leadership.

“Preparing strong leaders for the future is the primary purpose of the National Community College Hispanic Council’s Leadership Fellows Program,” said NCCHC President, and Chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges-Tempe, Arizona, Maria Harper Marinick. She further states “A demographic shift is occurring in the United States and we are preparing new leaders who can model the way for the growing Hispanic population our community colleges serve. Through this program, Fellows gain the necessary knowledge and skills they need to lead higher education into the future and positively impact the economic and civic success of their respective communities.”

Here we’d like to share with you a unique community college leadership development program targeting future Latino/a leaders and solicit your nominations for the next cohort!

A bit of historical background

NCCHC is an affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges, a national organization that has provided leadership to the community college movement for the past half-century. The Council, which was established 30 years ago, works to promote the educational interests and success of the Hispanic community and emphasizes access, equity and excellence for students and staff in community colleges. One of the first ventures was to offer a leadership development program, with support from the Ford Foundation. Of the original 72 Fellows, more than 15 became community college presidents and many others have moved to positions of increased responsibility as executive level administrators. Since the program’s inception, more than 250 community college administrators have participated as Leadership Fellows.

Today, twelve of the 65 Latino community college CEOs nationwide are former NCCHC Fellows, and the program’s national impact on the leadership pipeline continues to grow. During a recent 16-month program, at least 42 former Fellows were promoted, including three vice chancellors; eight presidents; seven vice presidents; 12 deans and 12 directors. Additionally, two former Fellows now serve as vice chancellors at four-year institutions.

2017 NCCHC Latina Fellows at the NCCHC National Conference in Miami, FL along with NCCHC President, and Chancellor of Maricopa Community Colleges-Tempe, Arizona, Maria Harper Marinick

From 2003-2009 NCCHC was housed at North Carolina State University under the supervision of Dr. Leila Gonzalez-Sullivan, retired President of Community College of Baltimore County-Essex Campus. Then, from 2010-2013 NCCHC moved to California State University, Long Beach under the leadership of Dr. Bill Vega, retired Chancellor of the Coast Community College District.   Since 2014, the NCCHC Fellows Program has been housed at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences under our direction: Ted Martinez, a retired Superintendent/President of Rio Hondo College is NCCHC’s Director, and Reyes Quezada, NCCHC’s Associate Director, is a USD Professor.

Annually the program Identifies 20-25 potential community college presidential aspirants and provides year-long learning opportunities. The 2018 cohort is comprised of 24 Fellows (11 males and 13 females) all have a master’s degree and ten hold doctorates. They include community college vice-presidents, executive directors, deans, and directors from nine different states: AZ (5), CA (4), FL (2), IL (1), NJ (1), CO, (1), TX (8), NY (1), and WA (1).

The Program

Fellows participate in two residential learning seminars that meet for four days in early June and another four days in early October. The October meeting links with the annual NCCHC conference and many of the Fellows present at the conference. NCCHC participants develop an individual plan of action since the program includes a one-year mentoring experience with a seasoned community college

Dr. Ted Martinez Leading a Session on Mentoring NCCHC Leadership Fellows (2016)

leader and helps Fellows build professional networks that advance their career aspirations. There are various online activities in between the two residential seminars.

The curriculum is learner-centered and based on the AACC Competencies for Community College Leaders. Various sessions are presented by community college Latina(o) chancellors, presidents and other high-level administrators or community college board members. Some of the topics include: organizational strategy, institutional effectiveness, communication, collaboration and the change process, crisis and conflict management, cultural proficiency and diversity, strategic planning, finances and facilities, as well as professionalism. Individual sessions and the overall program are evaluated annually and the results are presented to the NCCHC Board of Directors.

We all know that ’the proof is in the pudding.’ NCCHC participant testimonials include hundreds of statements and stories of how the program made a difference in their professional as well as their personal journeys. Participants express their excitement in becoming leaders who represent the Latino community for the betterment of all community college students.

Creating a Latino(a) Leadership Pipeline

 There is a great need to have strong leadership programs to prepare community college leaders for the 21st century since many current administrators will be retiring. According to some estimates, 50%-75% of community college presidents will retire by 2020. A 2015 AACC report indicates that out of the 961 community college presidents nationwide, the number of Hispanic CEOs was only 4%; 53% were White, 9% African-American, and 2% Asian. Thus, it is imperative that leadership development programs be created to increase the pipeline of Latina(o) leaders in higher education. So how do we do this?

First, we need to design and identify effective recruitment strategies. This can be done by:Developing strategies to increase the number of Hispanic executive administrators and presidents in community colleges.

  • Creating mechanisms to increase the visibility of Hispanic administrators and CEOs in order to attract greater number of Hispanic students to these institutions.
  • Creating mechanisms and programs (such as the NCCHC Fellows Program) to develop a cadre of Hispanic leaders that can serve as role models and decision-makers.

Why is it crucial to have such a pipeline program for Latino(a) Community College leaders?

First, demographics show that Latinos were the second largest racial/ethnic group in the U.S. in 2012; 17% of the total U.S. population compared to Whites at 63% (NCES, Digest of Education Status, 2013). By 2060, the Latino population is projected to increase to 31%, while Whites will represent 43% (U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division). In 2011, Hispanics represented 24% of K-12 education enrollment and are projected to represent 30% by 2030 (NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, 2011).

In Fall 2012, Hispanics were the second highest group enrolled in community colleges at 20%; Whites represented 54%, African-American 15%, Asians 6% (NCES Digest of Education Statistics, 2013), and in 2012, almost half (46%) of Latino students in higher education were enrolled in public institutions and 3% in private two-year institutions; compared to African-Americans (34%), Asians (32%), and Whites (31%) (NCES, Digest of Education Statistics, 2013).

Second, the Latino managerial and administrative staff in all colleges and universities are not proportional to the presence of this group in the general population. In 2018 a report by the Los Angeles-based Campaign for College Opportunity found that 44% of the students in California’s community colleges are Hispanic while the faculty is 15% Hispanic. California has 114 community college presidents and/or chancellors, only 17 are Hispanic.

A Call to Action! Help Us Recruit New Fellows

 

NCCHC Leadership Fellow Pins Awarded for Completion of Program

Each year, we mail information letters to all Community College Presidents informing them of the program so they can identify and sponsor an eligible Fellow. The eligibility criteria include currently holding an administrative position and aspiring to become a community college president; a Master’s degree is required and a doctorate preferred.

Please help us Identify potential community college leaders at your institutions. You can begin by establishing a mentoring program at your college. Mentor one potential leader whose goal is the presidency. Make a special effort to identify diverse candidates. Provide financial support for internships, travel, seminars, etc. Promote and collaborate with area leadership graduate programs and support the NCCHC Fellows Program and other similar programs.

Valuing diversity means understanding that everyone does not experience the world in the same way, and that the richness of these differing experiences will improve the quality of life for all… Valuing diversity means getting over the issue of race and gender, and focusing on the best interests of the institution and the community when selecting a college president. (The Community College Presidency at the Millennium, George Vaughn)

 

 meet Dr. Quezada

meet Dr. Martinez

 

 

 

Understanding Learning Disability and Dyslexia in the Indian Educational Context

Distinguished Fellow Professor Maya Kalyanpur, a learning disability researcher, shares the background literature to a study she is conducting in India.  A key focus of school leaders is equity and understanding the needs of students with disabilities so that school staff can ensure a supportive learning environment for all children.

In the last ten years, the number of children who are labeled as learning disabled (LD) or dyslexic in India has increased exponentially (Karande, Sholapurwala & Kulkarni, 2011) — currently, about 10% or 30 million children are estimated to have a learning disability (“10% of kids”, 2012) with a corresponding upsurge in the provision of fee-based remedial classes and special schools to respond to their needs (Dyslexia Association of India, 2011). There is no research to explain this trend.

The label of learning disability is itself new to India. It was officially recognized in 2009 when the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act of 1995 was amended to include the category of Specific Learning Disabilities (Unni, 2012). Earlier in 2007, the Bollywood movie, Taare Zameen Par, about a young boy struggling to learn in school, brought the term “dyslexia” into the mainstream, seeking to raise awareness, clarify some misconceptions, and reduce the stigma associated with it (“Pain of Dyslexia”, 2008).

Photo courtesy of Educate Girls Globally: www.educategirls.org

In post-colonial India, more children than ever before are accessing an education, facilitated by the Indian government’s Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (or Education for All) program launched in 2001, and the 2009 Right to Education (RTE) Act. However, recognizing English as the language of opportunity and social mobility (“Goddess of English”, 2014; Motha, 2014; Varma, 2007), parents are increasingly choosing to send their children to English-medium private schools rather than government schools where the medium of instruction is in the regional or national language, regardless of whether English is spoken at home (Kalia & Reese, 2009); as a result private school enrollment in most states is increasing (Annual Status of Education Report [ASER], 2015). With the commensurate increase in competiveness to get into and do well in school, students who experience academic difficulties are often perceived as “hopeless or badly behaved” and labeled LD (“Pain of Dyslexia”, 2008). While the main benefit of labeling is that students will get remedial help, it can also be problematic: One, there is a stigma associated with disability (Center for Equity Studies [CES], 2014). Two, sometimes children from non-English speaking homes, many of whom may also be poor or Dalit (oppressed caste community), may get labeled because they perform at a lower level than students who come to school knowing English, not because they have a disability (Mukhopadhyay & Sriprakash, 2011). Three, many schools do not offer remedial services, and most remedial schools charge high fees making them unaffordable to most children; so students get labeled but no support (CES, 2014).

Photo courtesy of Educate Girls Globally: www.educategirls.org

There are no equivalent local words for terms like LD or dyslexia (Gabel, 2004), suggesting that the lens by which these children are being identified is imported from the US. For instance, the definition for the term in the PWD Act is almost the same as that in the US Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (Unni, 2012). However, there are problems associated with importing LD. One, scholars in the US assert that the LD category is more a social construction than a condition with a biological basis (Duhaney, 2014; Harry, 2014; Sleeter, 1986). In the 1950s, many American students who were struggling academically were labeled LD and segregated in separate classrooms because of the competition from the US-USSR space race, rather than on the basis of medically-evidenced cognitive difficulties (Sleeter, 1986). Studies show that low-income students and students for whom English is not a first language are more likely to be labeled LD than students not similarly disadvantaged, suggesting that the identification of students is often dependent on teachers’ subjective perceptions of students’ academic difficulties (Duhaney, 2014; Harry, 2014). In India, Mukhopadhyay & Sriprakash (2011) found that when government schools failed to meet standards of school effectiveness, teachers began assessing increasing proportions of students from marginalized groups as “failing”. Another study found that the RTE Act mandate to reserve 25 percent seats in private schools for children from economically and socially marginalized communities to ensure access of education resulted in many children being subjected to overt discrimination by teachers who viewed them as ‘slow learners’, ‘weak’ or ‘unteachable’, and becoming reluctant to seek clarifications because they were “scared that teachers would scold, beat or insult them, or that peers would make fun of them for what they did not know” (CES, 2015, p. 56). This suggests that, as in the US, disadvantaged students are more likely to be identified as LD.

Two, programs and practices for LD students in the US emerge from a resource-rich model of service provision that is often incompatible with the Indian realities. For

instance, schools in India are expected to provide certain modifications required by law, but the process for procuring these services can be complicated and discouraging for most families, especially those from low-income backgrounds (Ghai, 2006). The shortage of LD specialists means that most schools do not provide on-site remedial services, and many remedial schools charge high fees for the specialized services, making them unaffordable to low-income students (CES, 2012). Further, the number of

officially recognized languages in India makes creating a standardized assessment measure for the specific detection and educational intervention of children with LD problematic (Narayan, et al., 2003; Unni, 2012). Till recently, the American publishing company, Pearson, now based in India, was marketing diagnostic tools normed on the 2000 US Census “as a toolkit for assessing dyslexic students in Indian schools” (“Now, a toolkit,” 2012), suggesting that Indian children were being assessed and diagnosed as LD because they failed a test normed on US standards.

Photo courtesy of Educate Girls Globally: www.educategirls.org

Three, the importation of the US model tends to overlook the possibility of alternative frameworks for how disability is perceived and responded to (Breidlid, 2013; Grech, 2011). Grech (2011) recommends the need for eliciting local perceptions and understandings by adopting an assets lens. For instance, in one government Education For All program in India, many teachers and community members, recognizing that ability grouping was tantamount to discrimination and led to social conflicts, resisted the idea of labelling the children and separating them on that basis (Gandhe, 2004).

I have received a Fulbright research grant to conduct a study on this phenomenon. Using qualitative research techniques of open-ended interviews and classroom observations, I will seek to understand the meaning and effects of the label of learning disability in India by learning the perspectives of teachers on school failure and the factors necessitating labeling as well as the perspectives of students labeled LD and their families. The study will focus on two private, low-fee English-medium schools that currently identifies students as LD, since low-fee schools will be more likely to have students from low-income or non-English speaking home environments. I am hoping to use this forum to present my findings and preliminary analyses. Stay tuned for more!

Meet Dr. Kalyanpur

References

“10% of kids in India have learning disability: Experts say” (January 27, 2012) Times of India. Retrieved from: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-01-27/chennai/30669918_1_inclusive-education-disability-autism

Annual State of Education Report (ASER). (2015). Annual status of education report, 2014. New Delhi: Pratham.

Breidlid, A. (2013). Education, indigenous knowledges and development in the global South: Contesting knowledges for a sustainable future. New York: Routledge.

Center for Equity Studies (CES) (2014) India exclusion report, 2013-14. Bangalore: Books for Change.

Duhaney, L.M.G. (2014). Disproportionate representation in special education: A persistent stain on the field. In F. E. Obiakor & A. F. Rotatori (Eds.), Contemporary perspectives in special education: Multicultural education for learners with special needs in the 21st century (pp. 15-40). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Dyslexia Association of India (2011). Home page. Retrieved from: http://www.dyslexiaindia.org.in/

Gabel, S. (2004). South Asian Indian cultural orientations towards mental retardation. Mental Retardation, 42(1), 12-25.

Gandhe, S. K. (2004). External evaluation of Janshala programme: Synthesised report. Pune: Indian Institute of Education.

Ghai, A. (2002). Disability in the Indian context: Post-colonial perspectives. In M. Corker & T. Shakespeare, (Eds.) Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying disability theory. (pp. 88-100). Continuum: London.

“A ‘Goddess of English’ for India’s down-trodden” (February 15, 2011). BBC News. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-12355740

Grech, S. (2011). Recolonising debates or perpetuated coloniality? Decentring the spaces of disability, development and community in the global south. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15(1), 87–100.

Harry, B. (2014). The disproportionate placement of ethnic minorities in special education. In L. Florian (Ed.). The SAGE Handbook of special education, vol. 1, 2nd Ed. (pp. 73-95). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Kalia, V & Reese, E. (2009). Relations between Indian children’s home literacy environment and their English oral language and literacy skills. Scientific Studies of Reading, 13(2), 122–145. DOI: 10.1080/10888430902769517

Karande, S., Sholapurwala R. & Kulkarni, M. (2011). Managing Specific Learning Disability in schools in India. Indian Pediatrics, 48, 517-520.

Motha, S. (2014). Race, empire and English language teaching: Creating responsible and ethical anti-racist practice. New York: Teachers College.

Mukhopadhyay, R. & Sriprakash, A. (2011). Global frameworks, local contingencies: policy translations and education development in India. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 41(3), 311 — 326.

Narayan, J., Thressiakutty, A.T., Haripriya, C., Reddy, K.G., Sen, N. (2003). Educating children with learning problems in primary schools: Resource book for teachers. Secunderabad: National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped.

“Now, a toolkit for dyslexic students in Indian schools” (July 25, 2012) The Times of India. Retrieved from: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-25/news/32847749_1_tool-kit-dyslexic-english-medium-schools

“The Pain of Dyslexia, as Told by Bollywood” (June 4, 2008). Washington Post. Retrieved from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/03/AR2008060303201.html

Sleeter, C. E (1986) Learning disabilities: The social construction of a special education category. Exceptional Children, 53(1), 46-54.

Unni, J.C. (2012). Specific learning disability and the amended “Persons with Disability Act”. Indian Pediatrics, 49, 445-447. Retrieved from: http://medind.nic.in/ibv/t12/i6/ibvt12i6p445.pdf

Varma, P. (2007). We need to go back to the drawing board. In A. Kaushik (Ed.) Shiksha: The challenge of Indian education (pp. 41-50). New Delhi: Tehelka.

 

 

Classroom and school communication: insights from the profession

Distinguished Fellow Maureen Robinson from Stellenbosch University in South Africa shares insights from school principals and deputy principals about how to build a school environment that supports student learning. Paula

In May 2018 I invited six school principals and deputy principals from local primary and high schools to address two classes of final year Education students at Stellenbosch University on the topic Classroom communication: insights from the profession. The aim of the session was to share with student teachers real stories of how the speakers facilitate processes of communication at their schools – aimed at building a healthy environment that supports learning.

Aimèe Beerwinkel, student teacher, busy with microteaching at the university. The lesson was about the water crisis in Cape Town and was integrated into a Life Orientation lesson on the rights and responsibilities of children.

As I put it to the students: “We want you to hear the voices from the profession so that you can understand the challenges, structures and processes with regards to facilitating communication at all levels at school. We are looking for stories of challenges as well as possibilities; what teachers do to establish positive communication between learners, professional communication between teachers, and productive communication with the broader environment.”

The speakers were asked to address the following guiding questions:

  • How important is teacher-teacher and learner-teacher communication in building a healthy environment for learning at the school?
  • How does your school encourage professional communication between teachers?
  • How does your school encourage positive communication with learners?
  • What are some of the challenges you face in building trust and communication at your school? How do you deal with these?
  • Have you drawn on any professional development or academic programmes to shape your understanding of these issues? If so, which, and how have they shaped your understanding?

South Africa is one of the most inequitable societies in the world, and this plays itself out in the combination of wealth and poverty within a small radius around the university. The invited speakers represented a range of socioeconomic conditions surrounding the town of Stellenbosch – including well-resourced schools serving an affluent community, poorly-resourced schools serving a poverty-stricken community, and those serving a more mixed population.

Students hung on every word, as the speakers spoke with passion, and showed evidence of their commitment and dedication to their learners, often in difficult circumstances.

Here is some of the advice these principals and deputy principals shared with the prospective teachers:

School 1:

Trust people. Connect to children, but there must also be boundaries. Know and use the structures of the school. Use a buddy system where older children help the younger ones. This teaches them responsibility and leadership. Remember that you cannot grow a plant by dipping it into the dirt once a year, it takes an ongoing connection to build root system. You have the power to build a positive environment. Don’t display negative thinking and negative outlooks, or you will sound like a victim of someone else’s actions.

School 2:

One of the things that I’ve picked up in schools is that instead of working in collaboration, we work in isolation. We say “Oh, we’ve got the best practices in our school” but we never look beyond our institution. One of the good things is to communicate with fellow colleagues: “How do you do this, how do you approach this?” This is not necessarily related to your subject. I might ask a colleague of mine, “How do you deal with these huge classes?” “How do you deal with that difficult child?” Beyond that, “How do you deal with that difficult child who has a difficult parent?” When you open that communication you find that you are not in isolation.

School 3:

Just the way a teacher carries him or herself when coming into the class communicates to the learners in the class. Yesterday I realised again that those learners are psychologists. They analyse you. They look at you, the amount of enthusiasm you portray. They look at you and based on that they respond to the type of learning that is happening in class.

One of the challenges that has an impact on communication is the amount of stress that we are subjected to. I’ve had teachers start the day and greet me, and the next morning, the teacher is absent – they’re not coming back. This shows us the kind of challenges we face.

As a principal, I try and be as transparent as possible so that teachers know exactly where they stand with me, and I show them where I stand with them. An important aspect that I encourage at my school is that we must agree to disagree, and we must embrace each other’s’ differences, and in that way we can move forward.

School 4:

When a girl is young she may dream of her future husband, she has ideas about what she wants the husband to be like, he must be like this or like that. But then, she gets married and she gets the actual husband, not the one she has been dreaming of. It is the same with schools. When you are in university, you are told that this is what is happening in schools, and you expect certain things, but then experience the reality in schools. It can sometimes derail you.

It is very important to go into class prepared, because as soon as you open your mouth to start teaching, those learners will know if you are unprepared. But when you go to class prepared, those learners copy from you and come to class prepared. If they come to class prepared, it encourages you to prepare more to face the questions that you learn to expect.

A classroom of a South African school

The first thing that we need to inculcate to parents is that they need to own the school because if they don’t own the school, they will not look after the school. That comes from the fact that people come to my school from different areas, and don’t feel a committed sense of belonging.

School 5:

You’re going in to teaching to make a difference, and in making that difference you will have to communicate. There is the verbal communication – what you say – but also the non-verbal communication – how you say it. If you’re sitting in a desk lying back in your chair, what does that say to the learners who already don’t want to be there? Do you eat your lunch while you are teaching? You can’t expect your children to read if you are sitting watching TV. If you want your kids to work hard, you have to work hard. All these things are communication, and they say a lot about who you are and what type of behaviour you expect back.

I love social media and technology. Nuclear reactions can do two things: they can cure cancer, or make an atom bomb. It’s not the science or technology that is bad, it is how we use it. WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, e-mail, Google Classroom: you must use all of those. Google Classroom is the best thing, if you don’t know how to use it, learn how.

School 6:

You are all here because someone touched your lives. That is what we do as teachers and why we are in the profession. Yes we have to get through some content and there are exams at the end, but your job is to connect with people.

As a teacher, the most beneficial communication tool is to listen. You have to actively listen to your students if you want to know what makes them tick and what their cries for help are, but because you are so busy, it has to be an active listening if you want to really know your kids.

Try to understand the generation gap, because more experienced teachers next year will not understand you. You have a huge amount to give to them, but they will need the time and space and understanding that they have been there.

The children in your class will not remember what you said, but how you made them feel. You’re here because of a teacher who made a difference, and you probably can’t remember a single thing they taught you, but you remember how they made you feel.

Mkululu Nompumza, student teacher. He was teaching an English comprehension lesson in a school in Stellenbosch. He specifically chose a text that integrated English and History, focusing his discussion on agency in leading change.

Questions from the floor

A vibrant discussion followed, based on questions from the floor. Here are three examples of the questions that the student teachers asked:

  • With technology playing such an important role especially with the younger generation, cyberbullying is a huge issue. Have you seen it happen within the schools, or trickling into schools with kids being bullied in schools because cyberbullying that happened outside of school? And how do the teachers or the principal or structures in the school handle that?
  • When kids feel that they don’t want to be in school, what can teachers do to change that?
  • Most of us (students) are really young, and most teachers in schools are old – how do we bridge that generational gap?

My own observations as the lecturer

As the lecturer, I felt that the session certainly fulfilled its purpose. We crossed the bridge between university learning and school experience, as students were taken in meaningful ways into the lifeworld of these teachers. In an environment where teachers are often blamed for poor academic results or social ills, each one of these teachers modelled resilience and agency, thus building a positive picture of teachers as agents of change, even under trying circumstances. The presentations showed the wide spectrum of what it means to be a teacher: knowledge of one’s subject was emphasised, but there was also full recognition of the emotional lives of teachers as well as of their young learners. For the teachers too, this was a cathartic experience, as they gave expression to their own hopes and actions and were listened to by others. And finally, it was an opportunity to cross social barriers, as teachers from different socioeconomic circumstances could hear and respect one another’s unique and common circumstances. We will definitely do this again next year.

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the following principals and deputy principals for sharing their insights: Ms Wendy Horn, Dr Ben Aucamp, Ms Victoria Hani, Mr Jeff King, Mr Gary Skeeles and Mr Deon Wertheim. Thanks also to Bernard Rhodes and Cailee Pistorius for technical support.

Meet Dr. Robinson

 

 

School Leaders: Beware the Traveling Medicine Doctor …and some website, book and blog suggestions

IMG_0493              ¡Saludos desde Perú!

I’m working with some highly talented colleagues from an NGO who want to make schools better places for children. Work doesn’t get any better than this!

Since we created this website last March with its weekly blog, many colleagues around the world have asked me to share some of my observations and favorite websites, blogs, books, etc. related to school leadership in underserved communities.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider. I will end the blog on a positive note, but first let me begin with something that I find far too common and troubling….

Perhaps you’ve seen movies or heard about the traveling medicine shows of the nineteenth century in the US. These ‘doctors’ (usually a man posing as a doctor) promoted miracle cures for whatever aliments where popular at the time. They told people who attended their ‘shows’ that these medicines could cure baldness or a disease, remove wrinkles, prolong lives or get rid of that nagging cough. They authoritatively said that these medicines were patented (not!) in order to make them sound official.

Well today, as I work in low and middle-income countries I am meeting the 21st century version of the traveling medicine doctor! They claim that if you follow what they are selling (their consulting services), learning in your school will improve. In most cases they are hired to do one workshop, but more and more frequently these slick, well-dressed consultants are selling the notion that you need them throughout the school year. When you remind them you are a school struggling financially, they say they will give you a ‘special rate’ for their services since schools and children are so important to them.

First, they may tell you they have an advanced university degree (it seems to impress people more if it’s from the US, UK or any ‘western’ nation) and many list their names as Drs. So & So. Far too often they either started taking courses in a doctoral program and never finished, or they bought their degree(s) from a ‘university’ selling degrees or they may have an honorary doctorate. Beware the honorary doctorates since they are often given by a ‘Theological University’ or ‘Bible College’ that also is likely to be a college their cousin created after starting his own church. And, the worst part is, many of them want you to call them Doctor. It is not acceptable for a person who has an honorary doctoral degree from an unaccredited university to call themselves ‘doctor’; yet, people uncritically accept these titles.

These traveling medicine doctors tend to have attractive PowerPoint presentations filled with animations, quotes from well-known scholars in education or leadership and they tell you what they are promoting is ‘evidence-based’ (i.e. comparable to ‘patented’ like our 19th century traveling show doctors!).

Sooner or later these Medicine Doctor Consultants will fade away like the US traveling Medicine Doctors, but how much money will be wasted before that happens? How many teachers will be taught to use strategies that have no evidence behind them?

I’m thrilled to see some changes taking place. Some staff in Ministries of Education are asking tough questions and wanting to see the evidence behind an intervention. And, many donors are asking for more evidence on the impact of interventions.

So, friends let’s do our best to uncover the snake oil doctors and destroy the idea of miracle elixirs! Education is hard, messy work—it’s not about calling in an expert “doctor.” There are no magic tricks to improve learning in your school.   It takes instructional leadership…so…follow the evidence!

Now for a few websites, blogs, articles and books for you to consider.

Three especially good education websites:

One of the best websites for evidence about programs is Robert Slavin’s– Best Evidence Encyclopedia   Using rigorous standards they identify ‘proven’ programs and topics at all levels of education.

Edutopia

The Hechinger Report

Here’s a book for you to consider: Urban Myths about Learning and Education (2015) by Dutch authors Pedro De Bruyckyere, Paul Kirschner, & Casper Hulshof.  The book debunks many of the (“Medicine Doctor’s”) claims, misunderstandings and misinterpretations of frequently cited educational research.

If you have a general interest in the African continent you may want to subscribe to Jeffrey Paller’s newsletter: This Week in Africa. It contains dozens of timely links to events and topics on the continent. And, if you are interested in development in general take a look at Duncan Green’s Oxfam blogs: Poverty to Power. Both sometimes have articles/links to topics of importance for those of us with an interest in school leadership.

There’s a newspaper that often has articles on education topics from around the world. It’s the Guardian and it’s free—but, if you find yourself reading more than one or two articles, please make a regular donation!

If you have an interest in Early Childhood education there’s an interesting audio recording (and transcript) from National Public Radio (May 30, 2018). It’s short and definitely worth listening to! Preschools in Ghana’s Capital Challenge Call-And-Response System

If you ever plan to write about Africa then this is the article for you: Binyavanga Wainaina’s How to Write About Africa.

Finally, if you haven’t yet signed up to receive our weekly blogs delivered directly to your mailbox, here’s the link to Global Ed Leadership. Under the heading “Resources” we include lots of books, websites, blogs on different topics in education, learning and leadership about different regions around the world.

Time to stop and get ready for a leadership and learning training I’m doing tomorrow. Saludos!

Paula