During the Reagan administration, then U.S. education secretary Bill Bennett referred to the independent and collective forces of school superintendents, schools boards, and district staff as the Education “BLOB” in a national op-ed. While the term is offensive to some, his message has merit. Oft times, school superintendents and their school boards and their central staffers engage in seemingly worthwhile activities that drain the energy, resources, and the very life out of a school district–especially its schools and classrooms. These activities frequently feather a person’s power base or job security, or even a re-election campaign–but few of these energy drainers actually improve student achievement and the work of teachers and students.
Earlier this month, I asked our Fellows in the Illinois Superintendents Preparation Academy to study a research work sponsored and published by MCREL to help them prepare to minimize this education “blob” effect. Through Marzano and other researchers, MCREL provided some positive correlates of the superintendent effect with student achievement. Through their review of more than 2,700 school districts serving approximately 3.4 million kids, here is what they found in terms of positive correlation:
superintendent tenure +.17
school autonomy +.28
principal leadership +.25
monitoring progress +.27
school board alignment & support +29
non-negotiable goals +.33
people involved in goal setting +.24
While positive correlations are not statistically “causal” these are themes of work and effort that can help a superintendent and his/her school board and central staff focus efforts on what can facilitate the acceleration of student achievement and supports for teachers and their work with students.