To understand why certain decisions are made, we need to understand the decision maker and the pressures under which certain decisions are made. This is sometimes referred to as looking through the lens of the decision maker. It takes into view many of the factors pushing and pulling on an individual responsible for making a decision. Sometimes decisions of some magnitude may require a number of individuals on a number of levels to make separate decisions. Each of those decisions is made looking through a different lens.
Certainly the leader of any School district, the Superintendent, has the most politically influenced job. Most often the position is held by an educator who has exhibited great business management skills as a primary focus. Of course it is not expected that Superintendents need professional development at this stage of their career. They must be able to effectively deal with huge budget considerations with every decision. Matters of money, procurement, personnel, labor relations, and infrastructure all fall to the Superintendent. There are demands by government both State and Federal requiring conformity to regulation. There are pressures from the reform movement for increasing accountability, as well as legal considerations at every turn. This leaves little time for weighty research to support every decision affecting education in the classroom.
The decisions for technology in education for most districts fall to the IT director. This position is often filled by a person with a technology background and not always from education. The pressures on the director in this position revolve around getting technological things to work smoothly. It requires using the bells and whistles of technology that the public expects to see for education in the 21st century. This also involves the Public’s perception of SAFE access to technology for their children. This perception can vary with communities depending on each community’s understanding of technology. There are also the problems of installing technology to a not-so-tech-friendly environment in regard to infrastructure, or user acceptance. They must also get teachers to understand the bells and whistles of technology to ensure the adoption of the high-tech stuff in order to justify many high-priced ticket items. Again, this leaves little time for weighty research to support every decision affecting education in the classroom.
Each building in each district has its own Educator/Manager, the Principal. Many of the business and reform pressures seen by the superintendent also come into play on the building level for the principal. There is a very real pressure coming from dealing personally with parents, teachers and students. Many considerations of both public relations and labor issues affect many decisions. Again, this leaves little time for weighty research to support every decision affecting education in the classroom.
Of course there are the decisions of the teacher. Considerations in this position include pleasing all of the other decision makers in regard to accountability in supporting all of the decisions and mandates that have worked their way down to the classroom. Teachers serve: The superintendent, the IT director, the principal, the parents, the law, and the students. Now there are also questions of teacher accountability being tied to many things out of the teacher’s control. Again, this leaves little time for weighty research to support every decision affecting education in the classroom.
Now at the bottom of the list, but never the less a decision maker in the education system, is the student. The ultimate decision to be made in the entire education system is dependent on what has worked its way down from the top. The final decision is whether or not kids will accept the opportunity for learning being offered to them by the system. Their decision will be based on relevance, curiosity, and personal need. How much of this is addressed once the decisions affecting the learning in the classroom have passed through so many lenses. Are we focusing those lenses on the needs of learning for our children, or are we losing focus because of everything else? Maybe we need to refocus our support so that most decisions are made with education in the classroom as the prime directive.