Creative Noncompliance

Every time we got a new chancellor of education in New York City we’d lament that he didn’t start out by acknowledging what’s gone before him (or her). I suppose it’s part of the “politics” of the situation. In order to look good, he paints as bad a picture as possible–one that allows him to go up with just a little PR. But there was one who invited a group of principals whose reputations rested on successful innovations. His name was Frank Macchiarola. I recall our amusement–as he called on us for our ideas–with our carefully avoiding one secret ingredient. It’s what former colleagues and bosses–Sy Fliegel and Tony Alvarado–preached. I think it was called creative noncompliance or maybe creative compliance… hmm. Anyhow, in short it meant ignoring most of the rules. Of course, it came with risks–and several of us did remind the new chancellor that it was hard to collaborate under such circumstances. And it’s not a program for system-wide success, unless the system either disappears or changes.

So when charters were first talked about, many of my colleagues were interested. We thought District 4’s work and the Boston Pilot schools demonstrated that it could be done “within” the system. That’s also before we realized that in a short time charters would not be responsive to their local constituents, but to the wealthy backers who in the end chose the Boards that made decisions.

Interestingly, the corporate and financial sectors have never been enthusiastic backers of either the Pilots or the District 4 experiment. They didn’t attack them, but with a few honorable exceptions, they paid little attention. In fact, the leaders of the AFT were more useful allies than Wall Street.

Read Diane Ravitch’s “Why Do Hedge Fund Managers Love Charters?”

2 Responses

  1. Funny, I have been using a similar phrase…”appropriate misbehavior.”
    It is very difficult to collaborate with any scale in this environment AND work (or appear to work) within the system. As the stakes get higher, the interpretation of implementing “the rules” gets more narrow and those who operate or appear to operate on the fringes get pushed over the ledge like penguin bait…not exactly easy to navigate in these economic times. Analogies of comparing teaching to football and the work of TNTP are luring to anyone wanting to appear to be implementing “reform” and at the same time horrifying to those who know the backers, the mission, the ultimate “touchdown” they are playing is in direct opposition to the win of many. Winners and losers…creative noncompliance….maybe it is like football…defense, trick plays, strategy..I think those of us on the field definitely need the “eye in the sky” view from those of you we trust…Meier, LDH, Pedro, Ravitch, Krashen…please use your megaphone….we need to hear you loud and clear in Oklahoma!

    Help us plan our defense….

    And what do you know about Teacher 2030?

  2. […] Creative Noncompliance: Teachers can say one thing and do another. Armed with research, our values, and our students’ voices, we can make changes in our classroom while ignoring dehumanizing mandates. […]

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