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EFFORT TO RESTRUCTURE SCHOOLS WON’T BE EASY, EDUCATOR SAYS

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In most endeavors, the pain and agony precede the glamour and glory, an educational expert told Utah educators considering restructuring of schools.

Quoting a line from a Memphis Slim song, "Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die," Carl Glickman told Utahns not to expect easy solutions to today's educational needs and that there are few easy paths to success.Glickman based his comments on his experience as director of the Program for School Improvement and as a professor in the department of curriculum and supervision, University of Georgia. The university is working with the state's schools to encourage restructuring.

"The rhetoric of (school) restructuring far exceeds the reality," said Glickman. The United States is in a second wave of educational reform, and one which holds more promise than the first, which was largely legislated.

The current movement gaining momentum is the concept of empowerment, "but that involves more risk-taking for individuals and systems," he said.

"Some things have to die in order to get to heaven," Glickman said, referring again to the song. "We have to be willing to shed some things."

He commended Utah's educational leadership for developing its Shift in Focus, a new strategic plan for student-centered education, which is founded on the principle of empowerment. The Shift was the purpose for Friday's conference, which brought educators from all over the state to the Salt Palace.

"Education doesn't solve problems," Glickman said, "It manages predicaments." Successful schools manage in ways that allow them to stay ahead, but they never achieve perfection.

The top-down approach of the past few decades stifled motivation at the school level, where education occurs, he said. When the system is upended, with innovation starting at the school level instead of being imposed from above, teachers, students and parents become empowered to guide their own educational destiny, he said.

Support for a common cause that transcends self-interests is the impetus for improvement. Critical dissatisfaction can, in fact, be a valuable spur to betterment, Glickman said. Schools in which everyone is "happy" are not necessarily those that are creating significant change that benefits everyone involved.

In general, he said, successful schools are those in which administrators and teachers - sometimes with student and/or parent involvement - are planning together, using pertinent data, sharing a collegial interest in what others in the school are doing, sharing teaching materials and aligning curriculum to meet a prestated objective.

Teachers who are used to reigning within the four walls of a classroom and administrators who are used to setting firm guidelines and having them followed may have to give up something in such a setting, Glickman said.

"It's easier to talk about it than to do it . . . change is uncomfortable."

The Georgia experience has shown that some schools succeed, some fail to make significant changes despite efforts and some fail outright to the point their management must be turned over to an outside authority, he said.

"My greatest fear is that too many schools are moving before they are ready," he said, advising a thoughtful, well-planned transition to site-based management.

The stakes are high, Glickman emphasized. He predicted that if public education has not made significant progress toward restructuring in the next five years, the county's educational systems will be privatized.