You’re Fired!
Week Nine: Assess for Success

Successful activities include three distinct phases: Planning, Implementation and Assessment. This is true in the boardroom and the classroom. This week The Apprentices were treated to a T.V. time out while the viewers got an inside look at some of the reasons why nine candidates have failed this high stakes test.

Planning to Win

Good planning strategies include an articulated goal, a review of the resources and a clear indication of how success will be measured. In each competition, the Apprentices have been told the goal and the assessment strategy. For example, renovate a motel and be ready for paying guests within a specific time frame. Success would be judged by ratings received from customer service surveys.

This straightforward approach is essential not only in the business world but also in the classroom. Good teachers share their learning goals and assessment strategies with the students. They base their goals on the Learning Standards and they base their assessments on the goals. Wouldn’t you expect then that state-sponsored achievement tests would be based on the Learning Standards? Oh, not so fast. In Illinois, I’m pleased to say, that has been the practice since the late 1990’s. However, it is not widespread. The authors of the No Child Left Behind legislation were compelled to address this inconsistency by requiring that assessments be aligned to standards.

Go Slow To Go Fast

Once the goals and metrics have been determined, it’s time to address implementation. This is the nuts and bolts of any project. It is where you identify what will be done, how it will be done and what you’ll do if things aren’t working. In excellent project based learning materials we call these the “invisible walls.” By taking time to visualize the project and plan for contingencies, you end up saving time and ensuring success.

Reviewing the performance of both teams, this has been the area most lacking. Without the “invisible walls” the project begins to careen off track and excuses appear. “We don’t have time.” “It’s not my job.” “I haven’t had enough sleep.” “My dog ate my planner.” The Apprentices aren’t alone in their apparent dislike of this stage of the process. The “Just Do It” battle cry has been adopted by do-it-yourself plumbers, counterfeiters and, sometimes, teachers. In each case, taking the time to build the invisible walls would have saved time and angst.

Reality Isn’t All It Appears

Garrison Keillor said “I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.” He could have been quoting John, Michael, Kristen or Verna. When interviewed after leaving the contest, each felt as if they’d done a great job, had great skills, and would be a great addition to Team Trump. Excuse me? The Donald had discussed personal responsibility numerous times during the boardroom sessions. Each heard those dreaded words “You’re fired.” At what point in their successful lives did they decide these appraisals didn’t apply to them?

The purpose of assessment isn’t to keep score, it’s to keep improving. A test should never be viewed as the final event. It’s more like a rest stop where you can get out, stretch your legs, check your progress, adjust as necessary and then continue on your journey. Success in the classroom and the boardroom is built on these three phases: Planning, Implementation and Assessment. The nine remaining candidates will continue their journey this week. We’ll see who’s on track to join Team Trump.

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