Home' Teacher : October 2010 Contents 72 TEACHER OCTOBER 2010
The not quite universally popular but pro-
lific Michael Fullan has yet another book
out this year. In All Syste m s Go, the reform-
ist, agenda-driven Fullan addresses sustain-
able systemic change to improve schooling
-- mostly in plain English.
Fullan's basic premise is that educational
change is typically undercooked, because it
fails to build collective capacity to enable
change, so what is this collective capacity?
It's to do with resources, Fullan explains.
Following the resource model of W Norton
Grubb, Fullan points out that most educa-
tional reform relies on simple resources,
rather than compound resources or, the best
kind, complex resources. So what are these?
In Fullan's words,
'Simple resources pertain to single-factor
investment. For example, a policy calls for a
reduction in class size. Compound resources
involve two factors, such as reduced class
size plus professional development directed
at teaching differently in the smaller classes.
Complex resources refer to a combination
of factors (three or more) that go together,
such as reduced class size, professional
learning and the instructional leadership of
a focused, collaborative principal.'
As you'd expect, Fullan's focus is on the
ways school systems can build their collec-
tive capacity by using compound and com-
plex resources. Also as you'd expect, he tips
the bucket on simple resource measures,
particularly those fragmented measures
typically employed in the United States as
a result of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Fullan also usefully critiques perform-
ance-based pay as a simple resource meas-
u re. As he points out, 'Better education,
strange as it sounds, is not produced by indi-
vidual teachers working with one student or
one classroom at a time. It is co-produced
by teachers and students across the years.
Learning is a joint effort of lots of people
working together on a given day and cumu-
latively over time.'
Fullan's approach isn't simply to use a
plain-English style, it's also to be direct.
'The message to policy-makers,' for exam-
ple, 'is that pay for performance per se will
not and cannot get you what you want
unless what you want is, at best, tiny pock-
ets of success at the expense of the system
as a whole or, at worst, a win-lose gaming
of a performance-based scheme.'
Rather than performance-based pay,
however 'performance' might be conceived
or measured, Fullan suggests that the best
incentive for teachers and principals is help-
ing them to get success with their ow n spe-
cific students, since 'actually accomplishing
something is the best incentive around for
doing more of it.'
Fullan's basic point is that you improve
school systems by establishing clear goals
to improve instruction, then providing
'flexible, varied, meaningful and just-in-
time professional development for school
administrators and their staffs.' As well,
he points out, you're better off with a few
simple goals rather than lots of complicated
ones. Best, he explains, to have 'a small set
of com mon principles and practices relent-
All Syste ms Go offers fine-grained
description in Fullan's four case studies of
effective school districts: Tower Hamlets
in London, Long Beach Unified School
District in California, York Region District
in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Ottawa
Catholic School District, also in Ontario.
Each illustrates how district leadership and
educators across schools can build collec-
tive capacity. It's worth keeping in mind,
however, that Fullan is a special adviser
on education to Ontario's Premier Dalton
McGuinty, an interest that risks making
Fullan look like a spruiker and All Systems
Go look like a candidate for an education
version of the latest fad diet publishing sen-
Fullan is pitching at systemic change in
North America, where system leaders are
faced with a number of problems that are
not in play in Australia to do with the refuse
of No Child Left Behind, moves in some
states and districts to performance-based
pay in some form, variability in federal-state
partnerships, and 15,000 school districts.
I struggled with Fullan's frequent use of
the phrase, 'raise the bar and close the gap,'
which leaves me picturing educators get-
ting kids to do high jumps off a shorter and
shorter run up, and I nearly turned off when,
on page 4, I read, 'Intelligent accountability
involves a set of policies and practices that
actually increases individual, and especially
collective, capacity to the transparent point
that shared responsibility carries most of the
freight of effective accountability.' Consid-
ering so much of the book is jargon-free,
I would've liked Fullan's editor to keep
him from transparent points and freighted
accountability, whatever they are.
Many years ago when my son was little,
he used to play a game which involved the
electrifying phrase, 'Rocket boosters incan-
dentrell.' Maybe that's why I struggle a bit
with All Syste ms Go as a title, or maybe
it's just that it reminds me of the 1960s
Thunde rbirds TV show.
Notwithstanding this, there's much to
like here. T
Grubb, W.N. (2009). The Money Myth:
School resources, outcomes and equity.
Ne w York: Russell Sage Foundation .
ALL SYSTEMS GO
By Michael Fullan
Published by Corwin Press and
Ontario Principals' Council
ISBN 9 781 412 978 736
Reviewed by STEVE HOLDEN
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