I'm always looking for ways to better understand the magazine's readers. I interview administrators while writing stories, I meet readers at trade shows, and I trade e-mails with officials about the magazine's contents.
But this month I've decided to take a bigger plunge into your world. I'm setting up my own District Administration Accountability Program. This way, you will be able to grade the magazine and the job I'm doing the same way as, I don't know, the federal government grades schools.
I'll be upfront and admit I don't have much experience in drawing up guidelines for such a program, but somehow, I don't see this as a big drawback. I'll put down some basic tenets here and you can help me correct them as we go forward.
Let's start small. Each issue of the magazine should be grammatically correct. Grammar is as important to us writers as it is to you educators. Mistakes can happen, so we lose a point for every typo or dangling modifier you catch each month. (To make myself ueber-accountable, five points off if you catch a mistake in this column.)
Second, the magazine should be easy to navigate and pleasing to look at. (Granted, the art director has much more sway over this area than I do, but I'll take responsibility.) So, five points off for every bad photo you spot, or confusing layout design.
Third, and most importantly, the magazine should offer informative articles, columns and stats to help you do your job. Because we go to a range of job titles, not every piece will apply to everyone, but if each subgroup of 30 or more readers can't find two items that help them, 10 points off.
Now for the hard part, deciding what a pass/fail grade is. I'm tough on myself, so I say if we rack up more than eight points in any issue, we fail for that month. I'll say that if we fail in three consecutive issues, or five issues in one year, the magazine will be labeled "underperforming." If this continues for two consecutive years, well, I'd like to give you the option of replacing me, but by that time the name over this column will have changed.
Best of all, I've decided to put myself in charge of scorekeeping. Because if there's one thing I've learned from many of the recent education news stories, it's that whoever keeps score has a big advantage.