Sheesh! When Did Education Become So Compliant?

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Written by Carol Diglio, Owner, Consulting by Diglio and former building and district leader

As educators, our ultimate job is teaching children and affording them the opportunity to meet their fullest potential. We take great pride in preparing kids for the world beyond 12th grade. From the outside looking in, educating kids looks pretty easy, right? After all, most students come from homes of parents, grandparents and even great grandparents who have experienced K-12 education at some point in their life. Frequently there is a notion by parents, and the community at large, that "since I went to a school, I know how to run a school." Here is what most people looking in do not know: education has become very compliant in terms of laws, mandates, regulations and required training, and far too often the mandates have nothing to do with teaching and learning. It is the operational side of education that can make leading a school feel very cumbersome and overwhelming, but rest assured, it doesn’t have to feel this way.

The summer months are a good time for principals to take a deep breath and organize the compliance requirements by integrating them into their routines such as calendar, staff meetings, building handbooks, weekly communications and newsletters where it is appropriate. It may be helpful to code mandates into categories by federal, state, district and even building level. From there identify which requirements are cyclical, yearly, monthly and/or weekly. For example, many federal mandates are cyclical and typically overseen by Central Office (e.g. Civil Rights Data Collection), but you may be asked to gather data from your building. This is where maintaining important data is critical so you are prepared when asked to contribute to a report that can be very useful to the district, but costly if it is not executed properly.

State laws and mandates include things such as the AER report, evaluation, truancy, concussion training, residency, bullying and harassment, Title IX, school health and medication (e.g. Diastats, EpiPen’s and insulin shots), immunization requirements/waivers, mentor assignments, etc. State laws are often supported with district policies and procedures. In other words, the state rolls out the law and the district identifies best practices on how to implement to ensure compliance across the organization. Some of these mandates are very routine and happen yearly while others are enacted on the spot when issues arise. For example, concussion training is a fairly new state mandate that requires employees to participate in one-time, online training with a certificate printed and placed in the personnel file for record keeping. This is a routine mandate that can easily be included in a new hire orientation at the beginning of each year and the training maintained in a staff portal that can be accessed at any time.

Some of the laws and mandates that are enacted on the spot include: Title IX, truancy, bullying and harassment and residency. In these specific cases it is critical that you are up to date with your training as well required staff training. It is also critical that you are familiar with and can access district policies, employee handbooks and contracts at a moment’s notice so these important and often emotionally charged events can be handled appropriately. Being prepared and in-the-know will allow you to lead difficult situations with the highest integrity, professionalism and compassion while honoring the law.

A few state and local mandates that can directly impact parents and students by either delaying or disrupting school attendance include, immunization requirements/waivers, school health protocols and residency. Clear guidelines and consistent practices will allow you to communicate to parents/guardians on a regular basis and throughout the summer, of their responsibilities, deadlines and consequences if the requirements are not met. It can make for a much smoother start of the school year and give parents the opportunity to ensure that their students can begin school with the rest of their classmates.

As the building leader you are expected to be a wealth of information and you are responsible for keeping your staff in-the-know. While you can’t know everything all of the time, use your organizational skills to map out the predictable mandates and know how to access and navigate your district documents (i.e. handbooks, board policy, administrative guidelines, contracts, etc.), that can support you in making decisions that are best for students and the organization.

Workshop Opportunity

Want to hear more from Carol Diglio? Join us on August 6 for "Back to School 101: Systems Thinking for a Successful Start" hosted by MASSP and MASA at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing.

This full-day workshop will provide practical and helpful tips and reminders for taking care of all the details needed for a solid start to the school year. Participants will leave with a checklist and a game plan for reviewing and implementing essential policies and procedures.

Topics include:

  • Compliance and setting expectations
  • Aligning processes with policies
  • Consistent evaluation practices
  • Certification changes for administrators and teachers
  • Changes to teacher preparation
  • MDE update

Reserve your spot at mymassp.com/Backtoschool101.