Tuesday, November 19, 2013

You know your school is in trouble when...

I have had the privilege of teaching in three top tier international schools (ISBrussels, ASLondon, ISBangkok), all quite different in their orientation due to geography and culture, yet all sharing the same high quality standards for teaching excellence. I have also taught at other international schools that are considered second or third tier (for various reasons), that have excellent faculty, but less than quality (read incompetent, indifferent or clueless) senior administration. Indeed, the one thing I have seen in all of these schools is the consistent high quality of teaching (with admittedly a few exceptions; to this day I do not understand why those were allowed to continue).

Over the course of 40+ years, I have seen schools--both independent and public--struggle, schools prosper, and schools maintain an even keel. There are certain manifestations of such schools, each unique to the situation, yet consistent enough to draw generalities. So, here is my list of characteristics that show a school is in trouble. Does your school exhibit any? Add your own warning signs!

1. Fewer teachers are hired than leave.

2. Positions are eliminated.

3. Successful and/or innovative programs are eliminated.

4. Administrative duties are consolidated.

5. Entry requirements are lowered or eliminated.

6. Parents are asked to pay for supplies.

7. Food prices take large leaps.

8. Unqualified teachers are hired.

9. Half truths and outright lies are part of the recruiting strategy.

10. Nothing in the curriculum is unique, yet the school advertises itself as "innovative".

11. Scores dip, so teachers are pressured to give more homework.

12. Large teacher turnover.

13. Inexperienced (read "cheap") teachers are recruited and experienced (read "expensive") teachers are pressured to leave.

14. The "bottom line" becomes more important than students or teachers.

15. Salary schedules are "adjusted" without prior notice.

16. Faculty do not know the first names of administrators.

17. Administrators do not know the names of the teachers.

18. There is no Q&A section at "faculty" meetings.

19. Policy changes are not announced, or if announced, are done by email.

20. Fewer people make more decisions.

21. The school spends a great deal of money on the fa├žade (new gardens, fresh paint) while at the same time cutting teacher benefits.

22. Teacher bonuses are replaced by random drawings of door prizes at the annual party.

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