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Recently I viewed a TED Talk by Patrick Awuah on Educating Leaders (here). He sends a powerful message that “education is critical to forming true leaders” (TED Talk Overview). In the Talk, Mr. Awuah shares how leaders across all levels of a healthcare organization make critical decisions that lead to life or death; and how decisions of his nation’s leaders have led to poor economic progress:

The question of transformation in Africa is really a question of leadership. Africa can only be transformed by enlightened leaders. And it is my contention that the manner in which we educate our leaders is fundamental to progress on this continent.

The powerful story behind Mr. Awuah’s message of transformation is grounded in leadership decision-making and how a decision is made, including a decision to not do something, which may lead to a change in events or a change in a country’s prgress. Consider:

The folks at the Ministry of Health, the hospital administrators, the doctors, the nurses; they are among just 5% of their peers who get an education after secondary school. They are the elite. They are our leaders. Their decisions, their actions matter. And when they fail, a nation literally suffers.

I’m talking about … those who have been trained whose job it is to be the guardians of their society… and we need to train them right… Leadership matters and it matters a great deal.

So, what’s the connection to education? Great teachers and great leaders make great schools. Research suggests developing excellence in our teaching practices is not a choice, but a responsibility. Consider findings from a meta-analysis completed by Marzano ten years ago (below); these findings are the powerful story:

A student scoring at the 50th percentile is likely to continue scoring at the 50th percentile after two years at an average school and in an average teacher’s classroom.

A student scoring at the 50th percentile at a most effective school, with a most effective teacher: After two years student increases from 50th percentile to 96th.

A student scoring at the 50th percentile at a least effective school, with a most effective teacher: After two years student increases from 50th percentile to 63rd.

A student scoring at the 50th percentile at a most effective school, with a least effective teacher: After two years student drops from 50th percentile to 37th.

A student scoring at the 50th percentile at a least effective school, with a least effective teacher: After two years student drops from 50th percentile to 3rd.

Last week I titled a blog post “If you can, teach!” A challenge to us to become educators of children, our respective country’s future. This is the challenge I embraced as a new college graduate joining Teach For America (TFA). I could not locate a statistic on the TFA website, but many TFA teachers (corps members) choose teaching and leadership in education in lieu of opportunities in “prestigious” fields. That is, they can (do anything) and  choose to teach or lead! In the TFA alumni blog feed (here) Mandela Schumacher-Hodge’s original “Why I Do What I Do” blog was reblogged; she chose to lead:

It’s been exactly one year since I dropped out of my UCLA Urban Schooling Doctoral Program to pursue my passion to build an edtech company that I hoped would both empower educators to showcase their unique skills and talents, as well as enable schools to find the best educators possible for their students.

I firmly believed that every single child deserves to have a great teacher, that every great teacher deserves the chance to exercise their passion of educating student…

One might argue that Ms. Schumacher-Hodge is not an educational leader. Consider, however, the reasons she founded her company: To empower educators, to help schools find the best educators, and to ensure that every child has a great teacher. Isn’t this – to engage highly performing educators and leaders in education so that each student achieves outstanding results – the goal for everyone involved in education?

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Awuah, Patrick. (June, 2007). Patrick Awuah on educating leaders. TEDGlobal2007. Available online at here.

Marzano, R. (2003). What Works in Schools: Translating Research Into Action. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

To learn more about Teach For America visit http://www.TeachForAmerica.org.

Schumacher-Hodge, Mandela. (11.26.2012) Why I Do What I Do. Original post here. Available as a reblog here: http://www.teachforamerica.org/blog/why-i-do-what-i-do.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, ranked for the fifth straight year on the Best Small and Medium Workplaces by Great Place to Work® and a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.