Sunday, November 23, 2008

Continuity or Change?

Does a reformer do better by doing a "big bang", lots of big change fast, or by persistence--grinding it out, 3 yards and a cloud of dust as they used to say about Woody Hayes at Ohio State? We've elected a President and the focus is on his first 100 days. Two pieces in the Post today argue, at least in the context of education, for persistence and continuity.

A teacher in Fairfax county recounts the broken promises of the 90's--he qualified for bonus pay after a long process, but the pay raises he was to receive soon evaporated under the pressure of tight budgets and the loss of the people who pushed the bonus pay initiative.

And a former superintendent of the Arlington schools argues, using examples from around the country, that worthwhile gains come from a marathoner, not a sprinter.

I've sympathy with both--I've seen an incoming administration discard the initiatives of the incumbents because of "not invented here" syndrome. But it's also true that bureaucrats, like me, are creatures of the rut. IMHO you need a mix of personalities with common goals--someone to stir the pot and someone to smooth hurt feelings--who can last for 10 years or so.

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