Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Parable

Joel Klein was challenged by his counterpart in Tokyo to a canoe race between the highest performing schools on standardized tests in their respective school systems. The race would be held on the Hudson River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

Klein decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A senior management team from Tweed was formed to recommend appropriate action. Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person rowing.

Feeling a more professional study with statistics was in order, Klein hired the Alvarez and Marsal consulting company, paying $15 million for a second opinion. Their conclusion: too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing, but it would take another $15 million for them to come up with a solution.

Klein gladly paid, telling critics of the high fee that the people at Tweed just didn't have the expertise needed and besides, these critics were just afraid of change and that a victory over the Japanese was essential as a demonstration of the success of his Children First initiative. A&M recommended that the rowing team's management structure be totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

Tweed's top management implemented a new performance system that would give the one person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program.' The program included after school meetings, new rowing standards and free pens to motivate the rower. Suggestions from the school to get new paddles, canoes, and extra money for practices were rejected on the grounds that "just throwing money at a problem does not lead to a solution."

The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

Klein blamed whatever was left of seniority protection in the teacher contract for the loss and the rower was U-rated for poor performance. All capital investments for new equipment was cancelled and the money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year's racing team would be staffed from a Charter School jointly managed by Green Dot and the UFT.

Thanks to Benna G. and Beth K.

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