Sunday, August 09, 2009

How to Thrive as a School Principal

OK, if you're an elementary school principal, or teacher, in Chicago (perhaps anywhere in Illinois, for that matter), not to worry about job security, because here's how it really works :
  1. Set yourself up at a public school in a neighborhood that's going through gentrification.
  2. Make sure a stream of "yuppies" and other trendy young parents - with their well-equipped children ("well equipped" in terms of learning aids, encouragement and constant stimulation at home) is coming into the neighborhood gradually, but steadily year over year - gentrification, turned loose.
  3. Before the above pattern sets in, be sure to get your existing student body (the lower it's performance, the better) fully tested according to the current state procedures, to establish a vital (and easy-to-beat) baseline LEVEL of your student body. (LEVEL refers to this key statistic: % of students scoring at or above the age-based state standard.)
  4. Let just enough children from these new trendy families into your school each year, as you cleverly and oh, so coincidentally, "encourage" an outward trickle of existing students - being certain that these include a few of your lowest-scoring students (not too many, just a few, here and there, gradually over time). But be clear on this - these outward-bound students are NOT your worst students, these are simply the ones at the lowest LEVEL, just as the newer inbound students you bring in are at higher LEVELS.)
Then, Presto, you can come in to the "office" at 10:05 every morning and leave at 2:35 if you want - and never sweat losing your school or your job.  You can go ahead and run your school as your own little patronage fiefdom (as some Chicago principals do) - it won't matter.  Go ahead, fill your faculty with your friends and enforce personal loyalty above all else.  Not to worry, with this plan in place, nothing can stop you.  Your school's performance on Illinois' standardized test scores will naturally - and virtually automatically - grow each year, with absolutely no regard to what your teachers are doing and what you do.

Why, with any luck, you'll receive accolades and be heralded as the new model of a great principal.  But even failing that, minimally, you'll not need to worry about being on the next school closing list. You'll have smooth sailing as you sit back and watch your LEVEL-based (not PROGRESS- or GROWTH-based) standardized scores grow steadily year over year and year after year, leading you to easy stardom.  Enjoy the ride!
Dear reader, if you don't think this is happening, have a look at the headlines about CPS (Chicago Public Schools) these days.  But if you want to know how to beat this "game", write back to me here - but I won't promise you that there's no math involved; there is, along with one big word you must learn.  Hope to hear from you.