Peter Greene writes here about the forgotten role of the principal and superintendent. It is not to promote misguided and harmful policies such as those that were central to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, but to fight against them and to protect their staff as best they can against misguided mandates. For most of the past two decades, however, the folks at the top blew with the wind and went along with what they surely knew were very bad ideas.

He writes:

A manager’s job– and not just the management of a school, but any manager– is to create the system, environment and supports that get his people to do their very best work. When it rains, it’s the manager’s job to hold an umbrella over his people. When the wind starts blowing tree limbs across the landscape, it’s the manager’s job to stand before the storm and bat the debris away. And when the Folks at the Top start sending down stupid directives, it’s a manager’s job to protect his people the best he possibly can.

NCLB, Race to the Top, Common Core, the high stakes Big Standardized Tests– each of these bad policies is bad for many reason, but the biggest one is this: instead of helping teachers do their jobs, these policies interfere with teachers doing their jobs, even mandate doing their jobs badly. In each case a bunch of educational amateurs pushed their way into schools and said, “You’re doing it all wrong from now on, you have to do it like this,” like medically untrained non-doctors barging into a surgical procedure to say, “Stop using that sterile scalpel and use this rusty shovel instead.”

That was bad. But it is base betrayal when, in that situation, management turns to its trained, professional workers and says, “Well, you heard the man. Pick up that rusty shovel.”