NPR’s All Things Considered recently ran a story about what has worked and not worked with the educational reform program called No Child Left Behind. Short version: When nothing else works, a school must develop a restructuring strategy. The most common strategy — and the one that most consistently works — is called by education pundits, “the lobotomy.” It means, simply, firing the person in charge. With school, it’s the principal.
Why is the lobotomy the only thing that consistently works? It’s hard to say.
Tom Ahn, a University of Kentucky professor and leading researcher of No Child Left Behind Ahn points out that, to be forced into restructuring, a school had to be considered failing for six years. “There’s something seriously wrong with the way the school has been run,” Ahn says.
This doesn’t necessarily the principal is bad or incompetent.
Says Ahn, “When leadership change occurs, basically there’s a sea change.”
Not only is there an improvement in student performance, but also in teacher satisfaction surveys.
I’ve thought of “the lobotomy” several times since hearing about it in that story. But I’ve been thinking about it being appliedcin other contexts than No Child Left Behind.
Moral of this story
In education, business, politics, sports, you name it, when you want a sea change, a lobotomy may not always work, but it’s more likely to work consistently than other choices.