As I write, policymakers and professional educators in CT are debating the opportunities and challenges of district consolidation. At the federal level, we’ve just learned that the President has proposed a 10% reduction in Department of Education spending, an elimination of well-established funding streams (Titles II and IV), as well as a new set of fiscal priorities (tax-credit scholarships to attend private schools).
I have strong thoughts about both of these ventures, but this blog is not about those two particular topics, at least not directly. These two debates—whether to consolidate CT districts and what should be the budget priorities of federal education spending—are expressions of bigger conversations we need to have. These debates also reveal assumptions about underlying strategy (or perhaps lack thereof).
As these debates continue, I keep asking myself these questions: What is our strategy for providing dramatically more powerful learning experiences and substantially improved outcomes for students? What is our strategy for making sure that educational opportunities are not dictated by zip code, income level, and race? And what is the relationship of these active debates to answering these questions?
By strategy, I mean what my colleague Isobel Stevenson describes as, “a tight cogent set of ideas about how to best fulfill the mission of the organization.” With this in mind, what strategy is district consolidation on behalf of? Or what outcome is consolidation supposed to serve if it is seen as the strategy? And, at the federal level, what is the bigger vision for public education, what is the appropriate role for the federal government to play in advancing that vision, and how will this budget bring that to life?
In the most recent edition of Kappan, Dr. Stevenson explains that developing a “plan is not enough” and while “most organizations have a plan, few of them have a strategy.” In this important article, she provides practical advice for clarifying your strategy and avoiding the typical traps of strategic plans. Take a moment to read “An Improvement Plan is not Enough — You Need a Strategy.” Share it with your board. Forward it to your colleagues.
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Richard W. Lemons, EdD
Executive Director, CT Center for School Change