Ockham's Razor applied.It's Mission Clutter
Teachers today are burdened with so many roles that teacher effectiveness and student achievement are shortchanged constantly. Applying the principle of Ockham's Razor Ockham's razor
Methodological principle of parsimony in scientific explanation. Traditionally attributed to William of Ockham, the principle prescribes that entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity. - "Entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity" (Reese, 1980, p. 399) - we arrived at this simple hypothesis: Mission clutter is the root cause of failure in America's worst public schools.
MISSION CLUTTER: A DESCRIPTION
Almost any problem or issue that exists in society becomes the responsibility of schools, and, ultimately, of teachers. Each day brings a new mission: drug prevention, sensitivity training, character formation, sexual harassment sexual harassment, in law, verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, aimed at a particular person or group of people, especially in the workplace or in academic or other institutional settings, that is actionable, as in tort or under equal-opportunity statutes. awareness, anti-smoking campaigns, ad infinitum ad in·fi·ni·tum
adv. & adj.
To infinity; having no end.
[Latin ad, to + . This mission du jour du jour
1. Prepared for a given day: The soup du jour is cream of potato.
2. Most recent; current: the trend du jour. and a plethora of public policy initiatives have resulted in mission clutter.
The Student's Point of View
Consider this typical day in a 3rd-grader's life:
As Jane runs out of the house on her way to the bus, she performs a mental checklist: "Do I have everything I need? Got my Ritalin pills, check. Got my self-esteem chart, check. Got my candy bar sales slips, check. Got my 'Guidelines on Avoiding Sexual Harassment in School, With Special Emphasis on Inappropriate Banter by 8-Year-Olds on the Playground,' check. Oops! I forgot my math book. That's okay, we probably won't get to it today, because I have to go to an assembly on 'Joe Camel and the Evils of Smoking.'"
When Jane returns home from school, her grandmother asks, "What did you do today?" Jane replies, "I don't know Don't know (DK, DKed)
"Don't know the trade." A Street expression used whenever one party lacks knowledge of a trade or receives conflicting instructions from the other party. what we did, but we sure were busy!" Her grandmother calls out, "Don't you have any math homework?" As Jane runs out the back door, she answers, "Can't do that now. Gotta go sell some more candy so I can go on the field trip."
The Teacher's Point of View
Now envision a teacher as he gets ready to go to work. He looks down a row of hats, trying to decide which ones to wear.
"Let me see . . . I've got my Social Worker hat on because I have to testify for a child abuse case today, and I have to be sure Dick does not go home with his non-custodial parent, I might have to intervene with sexual harassment issues between kids on the playground as well. Oh, right . . . here's my Psychologist hat. I'll need it for the crisis intervention crisis intervention Psychiatry The counseling of a person suffering from a stressful life event–eg, AIDS, cancer, death, divorce, by providing mental and moral support. See Hotline. session related to that recent school shooting
A person who is trained to give emergency medical treatment or assist medical professionals.
paramedic hat. Today, I will be trained in the use of epinephrine syringes, in case one of my students has an allergic reaction allergic reaction
A local or generalized reaction of an organism to internal or external contact with a specific allergen to which the organism has been previously sensitized. to peanut butter. That's in addition to the gloves I've been issued for cleaning up bodily fluids, and the timers I monitor as I remind students to take Ritalin. I'll also need my Recreation Director hat for playground duty . . . my Maitre D' hat for cafeteria duty . . . my Fundraiser/Telemarketer hat for the annual school carnival and candy bar sales contest this week. Here's the Miracle Worker hat so I can miraculously divide and multiply my paltry classroom budget to buy supplies for my 30 students for the entire year. Whew whew
Used to express strong emotion, such as relief or amazement.
an exclamation of relief, surprise, disbelief, or weariness ! I think I'm ready I'm Ready is the double platinum second release from R&B singer Tevin Campbell. I'm Ready yielded the biggest R&B hit of his career the #1 R&B smash "Can We Talk", and produce 3 more successful hits in "I'm Ready", "Always In My Heart" and "Don't Say Goodbye Girl". to go now . . . out the door . . . into the car. Oops! Of course, my Teacher hat. Just once before I leave teaching I'd like my Teacher hat to be the only one I had to wear. I can only imagine what my students and I could accomplish . . . ."
MISSION CLUTTER IN EDUCATION: HOW IT HAPPENED
Mission Clutter Creep
Mission clutter creep was very subtle at first, ushered in through benevolent concepts such as "Teaching the whole child" and "It takes an entire village to raise a child." Society stealthily stealth·y
adj. stealth·i·er, stealth·i·est
Marked by or acting with quiet, caution, and secrecy intended to avoid notice. See Synonyms at secret. moved the responsibility of the whole child from parents to the village, and from the village to the schools, and finally from the schools to the teachers. The problem is that all these entities, regardless of economic status, have become impaired in this shift - the result of which is tailor-made for a one-week theme on the Jerry Springer show.
Bear with us. We are not saying that the needs of children and families should go unmet. What we are saying is that a teacher cannot be expected to meet all these needs. How can one person effectively fulfill so many demanding roles? Teachers are being taxed beyond reason - to the point of becoming Jacks of All Trades and Masters of None. Thanks to mission clutter, the dire prediction of a "rising tide Noun 1. rising tide - the occurrence of incoming water (between a low tide and the following high tide); "a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune" -Shakespeare
flood tide, flood of mediocrity" has become a reality for all too many teachers and students.
THE DANGERS OF MISSION CLUTTER
Bankruptcy in the Marketplace of Ideas This article is about the concept. For the public radio show and podcast, see The Marketplace of Ideas (radio program).
The "marketplace of ideas" is a rationale for freedom of expression based on an analogy to the economic concept of a free market.
The concept of mission clutter is well-known in business and the military. It means doing too many tasks and playing too many roles to be effective. It is the "stuff" that clutters up the workplace and that causes personnel to lose focus. Without focus, critical outcomes are jeopardized. Mission clutter can lead to a company's demise because it bankrupts the organization by tearing away at the social fabric of the workplace and, ultimately, at its profits (Rosenholtz, 1989). To thwart mission clutter, companies create teams, refine roles, and define a common vision. In the workplace, time and resources are prioritized to keep personnel creative and focused.
While mission clutter is anathema anathema (ənă`thĭmə) [Gr.,=something set up; dedicated to a divinity as a votive offering], term that came to denote something devoted to a divinity for destruction. In the Bible, the term is herem. to effective companies, it is, ironically, embraced in education settings. Typically, committees and consortiums are created to add new fixes on top of old ones in an effort to solve problems (both real and perceived), not eliminate them. Policy- and decision-makers have overloaded teachers with innumerable responsibilities that are not directly related to teaching or learning. Yet schools are subject to the same problems as any business would face if mission clutter went unchecked. The bottom line is: Mission clutter bankrupts schools - the marketplace of ideas.
Impediment to Teacher Recruitment and Retention
Mission clutter hinders recruitment and retention of the best and the brightest teachers, because it makes teaching a very unattractive profession. Studies predict a national teacher shortage that will be massive and complicated. In efforts to stave off such a problem, states are enacting short-term solutions, such as reducing class size and offering $20,000 signing bonuses to draw people into the teaching profession (Ferdinand, 1999). While such measures may be effective in the short-term, long-term consequences are ignored. As David Berliner David C. Berliner is an educational psychologist and professor of education at Arizona State University.
Berliner received a Doctorate of Education from Stanford University. , Dean of the College of Education at Arizona State University Arizona State University, at Tempe; coeducational; opened 1886 as a normal school, became 1925 Tempe State Teachers College, renamed 1945 Arizona State College at Tempe. Its present name was adopted in 1958. , asks,
After you put people out in the field, who leaves education in the first three to five years? The evidence here is rather staggering and scary. Eighty percent of those in the top quartile Quartile
A statistical term describing a division of observations into four defined intervals based upon the values of the data and how they compare to the entire set of observations.
Each quartile contains 25% of the total observations. of academics are out of education in five years, and 80 percent in the lowest quartile are still there. Even when we attract them, we lose them in the first years. (Van Der Werf, 1998, p. B3)
Mission clutter has transmogrified teaching into a second-rate parody of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Respect for teachers has been damaged, because we have failed to keep mission clutter in check.
The public demands that teachers behave both on-task as specialists and off-task as generalists. In most schools, role diffusion and confusion have become a way of life (Rosenholtz, 1989). The burden of trying to be excellent in both role extremes is demoralizing de·mor·al·ize
tr.v. de·mor·al·ized, de·mor·al·iz·ing, de·mor·al·iz·es
1. To undermine the confidence or morale of; dishearten: an inconsistent policy that demoralized the staff. and debilitating de·bil·i·tat·ing
Causing a loss of strength or energy.
Weakening, or reducing the strength of.
Mentioned in: Stress Reduction . Teachers are experiencing unprecedented amounts of health problems that are attributed directly to occupational stress and burnout Burnout
Depletion of a tax shelter's benefits. In the context of mortgage backed securities it refers to the percentage of the pool that has prepaid their mortgage. (Guglielmi & Tatrow, 1998). The combination of a demanding job and low professional support is a sure recipe for poor job performance. If teachers are prevented from functioning effectively, how can they teach our children?
Governors across America have formed commissions to develop and adopt Standards of Learning Standards of Learning or (SOL) is a program of the Commonwealth of Virginia. It sets forth learning and achievement expectations for grades K-12 in Virginia's Public Schools. in order to ensure uniform accountability statewide. Every public school within a state is measured with the same criteria. These Standards of Learning were designed to measure student learning and to keep teachers' feet to the fire by holding them accountable for student learning.
Governors also have initiated school-by-school report cards that reflect the results of the Standards of Learning. The report cards allow taxpayers to judge how well individual schools, in concert with parents, students, and teachers, are meeting their primary responsibility - which is to promote achievement. The problem is, however, that mission clutter prevents teachers and students from concentrating exclusively on learning.
Teachers are no different from students when they are expected to do something. Students often ask, "Am I going to get credit for this? Am I going to be tested on that?" Teachers have the right to ask the same questions of those who hold them accountable. Yet society sends teachers a mixed message: "Most of what you do is extra work, but it doesn't count in the final analysis of your job performance." School-wide report cards that do not give teachers full credit for the demanding roles they are being told to perform are blatantly unfair.
Unless mission clutter is shifted away from classrooms, our only alternative is to create Standards of Mission Clutter. These new standards would identify and evaluate all the nonessential non·es·sen·tial
Being a substance required for normal functioning but not needed in the diet because the body can synthesize it. roles and tasks that teachers attend to daily, thereby aligning the evaluation of teachers with what they actually do.
HATS FOR SALE! SHIFTING MISSION CLUTTER
If basic education could operate like a business, mission clutter would be eliminated. Because public schools are public institutions, however, they always will be fraught with role and task diffusion (Sarason, 1982). Why not opt for the next best solution? Shift mission clutter away from teachers and out of classrooms. This shift must occur before public policy initiatives, program innovations, and performance standards have a remote chance of success.
In lieu of a "chicken for every pot," politicians now are promising to provide 100,000 new teaches - that is, 100,000 new classrooms - across the nation. Unless the teacher's role is streamlined, the only thing the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. will gain is 100,000 new cells of mission clutter. Doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results is, as someone once quipped, the definition of insanity.
Instead of perpetuating this insanity, we propose that education triage triage
Division of patients for priority of care, usually into three categories: those who will not survive even with treatment; those who will survive without treatment; and those whose survival depends on treatment. be performed on schools that are in critical condition. Give current teachers in the lowest performing schools immediate relief from mission clutter. In each state, principals and teachers in the worst performing schools would apply for school-based grants to hire Mission Clutter Managers (MCMs). The primary function of the MCMs would be to shift mission clutter away from teachers and out of classrooms. The critical needs of each school will determine the type of MCMs hired. Applying Ockham's Razor again, let us cut away entities that are not central to teaching. With MCMs in place, teachers could focus all their energy and attention on improving student academic performance.
Mission clutter demeans teachers, relegating them to the role of workers in a hybrid service industry. When mission clutter is transferred away from classrooms, teachers and students will finally have the same workplace conditions that are characteristic of effective organizations. Mission clutter camouflage will no longer be an excuse for student failure or a cover for incompetent teachers. Students and teachers can stay on track, building habits of achievement (Allison & DeCicco, 1997a), and creating cultures of achievement (Allison & DeCicco, 1997b). Shifting mission clutter will be an essential first step in elevating teachers to the professional status they deserve.
Authors' Note: We would like to thank Frank DeCicco Frank DeCicco (1935 - April 13, 1986) was a New York mobster and labor racketeer belonging to the Gambino crime family who eventually plotted the murder of boss Paul Castellano. for his technological and editorial support, Richard Radtke for his insight and feedback as a teacher, and Beryl Allison (Jeanette's father and a 34-year veteran teacher) for his skills as an illustrator.
Allison, J., & DeCicco, E. K. (1997a). On basic habits of achievement. Focus on Later Elementary/Early Adolescent Students, 10(1), 1-4.
Allison, J., & DeCicco, E. K. (1997b). Creating an antidote to Beavis and Butthead butt·head
n. Vulgar Slang
A person regarded as stupid or inept. : Urban young adolescents building a culture of achievement. Childhood Education, 73, 305-308.
Ferdinand, P. (February 5, 1999). $20,000 bonus prompts a rush for Massachusetts teaching jobs. The Washington Post, p. A2.
Guglielmi, R. S., & Tatrow, K. (1998). Occupational stress, burnout, and health in teachers: A methodological and theoretical analysis. Review of Educational Research, 68(1), 61-99.
Reese, W. L. (1980). Dictionary of philosophy and religion: Eastern and Western thought. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.
Rosenholtz, S. J. (1989). Teachers' workplace: The social organization of schools. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Longman.
Sarason, S. B. (1982). The culture of the school and the problem of change (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Van Der Werf, M. (1998, August 26). ASU ASU Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
ASU Appalachian State University
ASU Arkansas State University
ASU Angelo State University
ASU Alabama State University
ASU Australian Services Union dean: We're losing battle for public schools. The Arizona Republic, Education Section, p. B3.
Emily K. DeCicco is President of DeCicco & Associates, a public policy and education law consulting firm Noun 1. consulting firm - a firm of experts providing professional advice to an organization for a fee
business firm, firm, house - the members of a business organization that owns or operates one or more establishments; "he worked for a based in Virginia. Jeanette Allison is Associate Professor, College of Education at Arizona State University West Established by the Arizona Legislature in 1984, Arizona State University at the West campus is one of four campuses of the Arizona State University system. Located in northwest Phoenix, Arizona, straddling the Glendale, Arizona city limits, ASU at the West campus has 8,100 students , Phoenix.