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Welcome by Editor

Welcome to Focus on Basics

Dear Readers,

Staff developers dedicate their careers to it. Researchers hope their findings will bring it about. Policymakers believe they can legislate it. Teachers do it all the time. What is it? Change. In this issue of Focus on Basics, we examine both organizational and individual change, and consider the staff development models that foster them.

Marcia Drew Hohn starts us off with a look at some theories of organizational change. The only truly transformative change, she points out, is one that involves a paradigm shift: a fundamental rethinking of premises. This is best done within a change-friendly environment, where information is shared and staff are encouraged to take risks. Bringing this about, she cautions, is not easy.

Change is happening somewhat more easily since director Hilary Stern instituted weekly reflection meetings for staff at CASA Latina, an adult literacy program in Seattle. Reducing staff turnover - a common problem in adult basic education - also served to increase commitment to long-term change. See the article on page 12 for more on this organization's strategies and struggles.

A program in Knox County, Tennessee, is undergoing a paradigm shift. Staff are using Malcolm Baldridge Criteria for Performance Excellence, an approach developed in the business community and adapted for educational institutions, to examine systematically their operations and improve them. They have learned, write authors Jane Cody, James Ford, and Kathleen Hayward, that being orderly and using data to make decisions does not necessarily mean Žbureaucratic.'

Teacher-educator Virginia Richardson examines the premise that teachers are reluctant to change. Teachers change all the time, she has found. The question then becomes: What sort of change will lead to student success, and how can it be fostered? She shares her views in the article that begins on page 7.

Sometimes change is unplanned. Immersion in a truly learner-centered process caused Edith Cowper to rethink her ideas about what it means to be learner-centered. She soon had a chance to put her newly honed beliefs into practice. Jereann King also had to grapple with what it means to be learner-centered, in her case when facilitating a group with an agenda and values quite different from her own. The facilitator and the learners all learned and changed, as should be the case.

We at NCSALL are always learning and changing. In the last issue of Focus on Basics, we published the results of an important new research study on the economic impact of the GED. A few readers pointed out that some of the hypothetical examples given in an exploration of the reasons for the results can be construed as racist, and by not noting those as such, we were condoning such actions. We certainly do not condone racism in any form, and apologize for any appearance we gave of doing so. We thank our readers for their thoughtful comments and will watch more carefully for this in the future.


Barbara Garner