I am currently being forced to read shedloads of papers about “Total Quality Management” – both in engineering and in education. Much of it is soporific management speak. But every now and then something catches my eye.
Having charts showing defect rates posted on the shop significantly predicted company improvement
Among a bunch of ideas about collaboration, and decision-making, and organizational value, it seems that something as simple as highlighting the current defect rate on an assembly line was significantly associated with an improvement in company effectiveness, income and customer satisfaction.
This caught my eye because my blog earlier this week on marking student work described how I stick students’ marks on the front of their folders. I also kept a “class average” score on the wall (well, it was on the front of the folder crate for each class) and that it was updated as we went throughout the year. I did this to keep us all focused on our aim of constant (even if slow) improvement.
Today, when I saw the article though, I wondered if we should also expect the same for teachers?
If I kept myself accountable to the students through our class-average wall, should teachers be expected to be airing their class results more often? Should they be published centrally? Should we be defending them regularly? I know that many schools already do this. Teachers are expected to hand in data, and explain where they are up to, and why. But I wondered how widespread it is? And whether it should be even more public? Shared across the whole staff? Shared with parents?
Given some of the management I have seen, this can be a panic-inducing thought. What if SLT try and stitch me up? Am I going to lose my job? Or what of the things we can’t control: “it wasn’t my fault, they put the six naughtiest year 10s in my class and gave me a triple lesson – how was I supposed to cope?”
Yet on the other hand I think that may be the very act of those conversations, about the fears that we have, about the fact that we have been fitted up with a triple lesson of challenging kids, is vital. Really, as professionals, we should expect someone to call us in on occasion and account for where we are at with our students’ progress. It only works if we have management who are willing to help, of course. If I say that I am struggling with the six Year 10s I need to know that someone is going to do something – move the students, send in cavalry, rejig the timetable – if all I get is sympathy and wide-eyes then we might as well not bother. But, if the information was there for everyone to see, everyone to defend, and everyone to ask for help this feels like it would be a good thing. After all, it would mean that a teacher could say “I told you months ago I was struggling with this class, in fact I published it on my wall!”
Still, I can also see reasons why it wouldn’t be useful (I suspect teacher stress would be the first people would suggest). Hence, DON’T WORRY, I’m not advocating for this as a national policy. More I am batting around the idea of asking teachers to be more open about information. To simply consider putting your class’s current levels/scores somewhere bold and loud, and keeping it up there as progress happens (or doesn’t). If we think transparency in politicians is helpful, surely we must also think it’s important for us to be truthful and hold ourselves accountable too?
But like I say…just a thought….