The Pace of Change

USS Kitty Hawk

USS Kitty Hawk

This is a big ship. Here are the stats from Wikipedia…

Displacement: 60,933 tons light
81,780 tons full load
Length: 990 ft (300 m) waterline
1,069 ft (326 m) overall
Beam: 130 ft (40 m) waterline
282 ft (86 m) extreme
Draft: 38 ft (12 m)
Speed: 32
Range: 12,000 miles
Armament: 24 surface to air missiles
3-4 close-in weapons systems
Aircraft carried: Up to 90 aircraft

Ocean liners and aircraft carriers are huge. At sea they take a long time to turn around, right?

Well, not really. And that’s why I’m questioning the glacial pace of change that seems to afflict our public schools in assessment for learning and grading for learning (aka standards-based grading).

Doug Reeves (himself!) spoke last week to the boards and supes/ass’t supes of Hillsboro, Beaverton, and Portland, Oregon school districts (courtesy of Nike, Inc., who has beaucoup employees in each city) on leadership, and his most surprising research finding was that change doesn’t take that long if done right.

I thought it would take ten miles and a couple of hours to turn the Kitty Hawk around at a reasonable speed. The real time? Fasten your tea cups, mates. Nine minutes.

Granted, that’s only a glamorous metaphor, but it certainly gets you thinking, doesn’t it?

6 thoughts on “The Pace of Change

  1. I think the difference here is that the Kitty Hawk just has to turn itself…and schools are often connected to lots of other parties which have to shift (or crash and burn), too.

    Making a shift in grading practices at the school level is the easy part—if leadership wanted, they can mandate that turn. Getting parents and/or society at large to shift their idea of what grades mean? How colleges and employers view and use transcripts? Using more valid/reliable grades as measures instead of standardized testing? Those are all connected to the big boat…and we can’t make those shift course in the same way.

    Yes, we have our baggage, but I’m bemoaning the “cold foot syndrome” that afflicts administrators at all levels. We can see where we need to go, but find excuses for delay. And the delay becomes habit.

    That said, I’m ecstatic that our district has taken concrete steps (at last) at the policy level to usher in the exploration of “the last frontier in education reform.” –Hugh 🙂

  2. I, too, and increasingly frustrated with the pace of change in American education and my district in particular. I’ve been working toward it for at least 5 years and although in the span of a lifetime that is nothing, I know it follows decades of efforts by others before me. And 5 years is the equivalent a child going from kindergarten to middle school without any significant change in the delivery of his or her education since 1957 or something like it.

    I find myself near to giving up and switching careers lately (though I doubt I’ll actually do that). Thank God for my network and blogs like yours, which make me feel less like a lone ranger and that there is hope, especially as the digital age may force us into it. I’m also heartened by the fact that we reformers or teacher geeks or edupunks — whatever you want to call us — are sprinkled all over the country and all over the globe.

    Your picture of the Kitty Hawk caught my eye, so I just want to say GO NAVY!! (My son graduates from boot camp this Friday.)

    May the Powers That Be protect your son, Suzanne. You have reason to be proud!

    Thanks for stopping by. I’ll look forward to reading your stuff. Our blogrolls look so different, you might think we were from different eduspheres! 🙂 –Hugh

  3. During my US Navy career I spent most of 1972 aboard the USS Saratoga CVA-60. It was about the same size as the Kitty Hawk. I recall that between flight operations the ship would be turned and went with the wind until the aircraft were ready to return to the flightdeck. The order was given 6 decks above where i worked and everyone aboard could feel the speed pick-up and the ship heal over as she turned into the wind.

    I don’t recall how long it took to turn the ship, but when the decision was made and the turn started, it didn’t take long to bring that 80,000 tons about.

    But maybe the hardest part of change is all the prep work leading up to that final action decision to go forth. It’s easy for that Ensign on duty on the 07 level of the aircraft carrier to issue the order to the quartermaster to start the turn. Those seemingly endless meetings, drafts of proposals, etc., are necessary and important, and hopefully lead to the best action decision. Turning the ship is quite easy when all the right things are in order.

    As always, Tom, great comment! I love to hear about how your life experiences relate to our topics.

  4. You’ve received a blog award for being such a great mentor…!

    11SEP08/Thank you very much, FT! I deeply appreciated the collegial nod.

    Your comment was buried in my spam box (akismet), and I just realized why…akismet interprets comments with URL references as spam. I’m glad I reviewed the spam box before deleting it all!

    Thanks again, FT. I’ll try to live up to your expectations. 🙂 –Hugh

  5. Does get me thinking.

    How is it that something so huge can turn so quickly?

    Fine design and a tight crew working together for a shared purpose.

    Seems like a pretty apt metaphor to me.

    Not that I want to steal a line from a Presidential candidate, but it does give us hope! –Hugh

  6. I was once told that lasting and substantive change can take five to seven years to implement? An educator by the name of Tyler wrote about this. What do you think, Hugh?

    I think it’s impossible to generalize about change, because there are so many variables, not the least of which is the magnitude and complexity of the change, and the willingness of change agents to get off their collective hind ends.

    For example, taking an entire school district, K-12, to pure standards-based grading and anecdotal report cards could take 5-7 years if admin and policy makers want to go there. But getting rid of punitive grading practices might only take a year if someone has the guts at the top to pull the trigger and support the classroom teachers with appropriate measures that support kids getting school work done, done, done.

    Lots has been going on in that area in my district, and I will report on it shortly! 🙂 –Hugh

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