I tried to use the Minto Pyramid Principle as presented by Phil to structure this document. I still fear that there are logical breakdowns within this structure. Here's my first draft.
Assignment: Identify cohort, analyze data, analyze systems. Look for causes.
Two years after founding the Bronx Guild, we do not have any reliable methods for analyzing the causes for the results we produce. This situation is startling given that we will graduate our first class of students in June 2006 and 85% of that cohort has not earned sufficient credits to be promoted to the appropriate grade. Here we describe our efforts to analyze this problem situation using data analysis and systems analysis, methods that attempt to link cause and effect in a way that would lead to taking promising actions.
Data analysis was not useful for discovering causes or promoting action
We employed a common statistical method described by Douglas Reeves (REFERENCE HERE) to conduct a data analysis. We compared attendance, special services classification and 8th grade reading and math levels to performance [SPREADSHEETS AND GRAPHS ATTACHED). The analysis was not useful for discovering causes as correlations were were not discovered nor for promoting action as the readily available data were primarily describing qualities outside of the school’s control.
Systems analysis was useful for hypothesizing causes and promoting action
Coached through a process by Liz Gewirtzman (WHERE DID THE EXERCISES COME FROM?) we conducted a systems analysis. We took steps that would help us deduce how the Bronx Guild was set up in such a way to have produced the problem situation:
What’s the problem?
85% of our 11th graders are undercredited.
Why is that a problem?
We’re supposed to graduate kids in 4 years according to the system and society.
What about this most concerns us?
Eventually we’ll be labeled a failure and suffer a loss of freedom. We will experience constraints on our ability to work.
If these were symptoms of some disease, what would the disease be called?
Imagine there were a solution…what would it have to do to affect the disease?
The solution would have to help us see that our arrogance (or uncertainty) is getting in the way of student’s learning and that external constraints are not the problem. It’s US not THEM.
What message would forward that solution?
“One kid at a time” or
“In 4 years!”
We need a message that addresses the disease and causes actions or behaviors different than what we have been doing and provides the lift we need. We need to think about how it affects decision rules and how the message can be implemented in any situation. Questions we need to ask include “what does the audience believe that makes them favorable towards this message? and What does the audience believe that makes them unfavorable?”
The team’s response to this exercise in systems analysis was useful in contemplating causes that affect student performance at the Bronx Guild. The responses resonated with team members: we saw that “arrogance” described a pervasive attitude that “we know best” and that “uncertainty” described the lack of response amongst staff when their competence is challenged [REFERENCE HUMAN SIDE OF SCHOOL CHANGE FOR CHALLENGE TO COMPETENCE AS REASON FOR RESISTANCE TO CHANGE]. We think there may be other valid diagnoses but we chose to focus on these two in the interests of taking actions immediately. This analysis put the source of action directly in the hands of Bronx Guild staff and therefore endowed us with a sense of agency.
The most useful analysis (systems) distinguished itself from the less useful analysis (data) by uncovering causes and promoting action
Our efforts to analyze the problem situation of undercredited 11th graders entailed two forms of analyses supported by course teachings and readings. These methods reflect our efforts to link cause and effect and determing promising actions. We discovered that the data analysis was not useful in this regard because we could not find correlations between inputs (e.g., attendance, special needs identification and reading and math levels) and outputs (e.g., credit accumulation and Regents pass rates). Furthermore, we were restricted to using that data which was readily available. That data largely described characteristics that were outside of the school’s area of control.
In contrast, our systems analysis uncovered theories that both resonated with the team’s experience and endowed the team with a sense of agency. The action plan will be described in the next document in this series (assignment 8).