Beware outside consultants? - Part 4, hiring organizations
This is my final post in my series on outside consultants. Parts 1 and 2 highlighted two controversial consultants, Drs. Willard Daggett and Ruby Payne, to illustrate some possible issues of concern. Part 3 delved into some professional obligations of outside consultants (like myself) who work with educational organizations. Today's post will offer some of my thoughts on the responsibilities of the school organizations that hire outside consultants.
J. Dellicolli helpfully pointed us to the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) Code of Ethics for professional development leaders and providers. The code for providers is fairly similar to the National Speakers Association's (NSA) code that I highlighted in Part 3. Unlike the NSA code, the NSDC code does include an emphasis on alignment with student learning goals. Note that Dr. Payne may fall afoul of Principle II of the NSDC code, which states that professional development providers should "habitually and accurately explain the strengths and limitations of the practices they recommend" (emphasis added). Similarly, Dr. Daggett's work appears to violate Principle I of the NSDC code, which says that services should be consistent with "high standards of quality."
More importantly for this post, however, is the NSDC code for professional development leaders:
Principle I: Staff development leaders are committed to achieving school and district goals, particularly those addressing high levels of learning and performance for all students and staff members.
Staff development leaders make decisions based on high academic standards for all students. They ensure that staff development activities make a significant contribution to the accomplishment of school system and school goals for student learning.
Principle II: Staff development leaders select staff development content and processes that are research-based and proven in practice after examining various types of information about student and educator learning needs.
Staff development leaders are informed consumers of educational research. They are familiar with and use research findings and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the research and its applicability to their settings. Consequently, staff development leaders only recommend professional practices that support high-quality teaching and learning. Staff development leaders use data to plan, assess, and evaluate the effectiveness of staff development efforts. Data may be drawn from various valid and reliable sources such as norm-referenced and criterion-reference tests, portfolios of student work, teacher grades, and student attendance and graduation rates. These data are disaggregated to determine the effectiveness of the school program and staff development on various sub-groups of students. In addition, other sources of information, such as data on student, parent, staff, and community satisfaction with schools, are used to guide decision making.
Principle III: Staff development leaders continuously improve their work through the ongoing evaluation of staff development's effectiveness in achieving school system and school goals for student learning.
Staff development leaders conduct formative as well as summative evaluation of the effectiveness of the staff development content and processes in achieving student learning objectives. They routinely and clearly report in writing the results of staff development to persons responsible for allocating staff development resources. Staff development leaders ensure that adequate funds are available for evaluation and that the evaluation process begins with the establishment of student learning goals and the planning of adult learning activities. They also ensure that members of school improvement teams have the necessary knowledge and skills to evaluate the effectiveness of staff development in improving student learning.
Principle IV: Staff development leaders continuously improve their knowledge and skills.
Staff development leaders read widely, attend workshops and conferences, belong to appropriate professional associations, regularly consult with researchers and professional colleagues, and reflect on the effectiveness of their own practice. They contribute to the development of other staff development leaders through conference presentations, professional writing, and service on professional boards and committees.
Principle V: Staff development leaders ensure an equitable distribution of resources to accomplish school system and school goals for student learning.
Staff development leaders ensure to the extent of their authority that adequate resources of funding and time are available to achieve district and school goals and that the allocation of these resources reflect both fairness and need. They also ensure that resources are invested in those areas deemed most likely to promote high levels of learning for all students.
Principle VI: Staff development leaders advocate for policies and practices that ensure the continuous learning of all students and employees.
Staff development leaders make certain that schools provide a culture and structures that support the continuous improvement of practice and of student learning. These organizations have norms of continuous improvement, collegiality, and experimentation. Organizational structures such as school calendars and daily schedules, labor contracts, and leadership practices advance school system and school goals for student learning.
Principle VII: Staff development leaders conduct themselves in a manner that avoids conflict of interest or the appearance of such conflict.
Staff development leaders do not accept any compensation, gratuities, or favors from staff development providers that may directly or indirectly affect leaders' judgments about contracting for services with providers. In addition, staff development leaders have no financial investment in or obligation to providers with whom the school system or school contracts.
Some of my quick thoughts on these seven principles include the following:
These are all great ideas and align well with the NSDC code. Here are some additional recommendations that I'd make for hiring organizations:
This has been an extremely long post so I will conclude with the observation that lack of follow-up kills the most well-intentioned professional development. If hiring organizations don't have a plan in place for building upon and extending an outside consultant's visit, they might as well not even have her come visit.
Like my previous list for outside consultants, this list is not meant to be conclusive but rather a starting place for conversation. What else should I have included?
[Note: If you haven't read the comments to Part 2 (in particular), or the accompanying conversations on the In Practice blog and elsewhere, they're well worth a read. See also Miguel Guhlin's post regarding his own expectations for speakers, Gary Stager's 2000 article section on False Prophets/Profits, and my previous post, Why is staff development so bad?]
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