Monday, November 22, 2010

Who Is Best Qualified to Run a School System?

Here's Andy Rotherham with some wise thoughts about what it takes to be a successful school super:

What kind of credentials do you need to run a school district? Especially a really big one? Is a degree in education a better predictor of a superintendent's success than, say, a track record of turning around distressed companies? These are hot questions in the education world right now. Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg surprised everyone (and that includes the senior leaders of his city's school system) by tapping publishing executive Cathleen Black to be the city's new school chancellor. By doing so, Bloomberg set in motion an arcane deliberation process. Because Black has not spent three years working in public schools — in fact, her only education leadership experience consists of serving on an advisory board for a charter school in Harlem — and because she also lacks the requisite 60 hours of graduate-school credits, she will need a waiver from the state in order to take charge of the city's 1,700 schools, 80,000 teachers and more than a million students.

It's understandable why some teachers and education advocates are objecting so vociferously to an outsider coming in to run such a massive system (though it should be noted that if the new chancellor pledged to undo the current reform efforts, many of these same people wouldn't care if Bloomberg had just hired Carrot Top as his new schools chief). If you've never worked in a school before, critics wonder, how can you oversee so many of them? But precisely because the New York district is so gargantuan, its chancellor needs a skill set far different from your average principal or teacher; the school system's annual budget of more than $21 billion exceeds the gross domestic product of nearly half the world's countries. Let me be clear, however, on two things: at this point, there's no way to tell if Black will be an effective leader of New York's mega-district. But what is lost in all the speculation about her is how outmoded — and counterproductive — American education's approach to credentials is in the first place. (See what makes a school great.)

After World War II, reformers saw credentials as a way to create prestige and respect for educators. An elaborate state-based and now quasi-national credentialing regime sprang up as a result. New York's rules about who can lead a school district are not unusual. Today's educators are obsessed with education degrees and credentials, regardless of the evidence about how useful they are in creating effective teachers or leaders.


School of Thought

Who Is Best Qualified to Run a School System?

By Andrew J. Rotherham Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010,8599,2031772,00.html#ixzz15kJylsZ9

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