Here is some good news. Executives at Camelot for Kids recently went to the time and expense to enroll and successfully complete The SUPES Academy, a comprehensive, intensive training program for superintendents and aspiring superintendents. Camelot is already a great partner in many school districts. These leaders taking time to learn about the superintendency and the complexities of modern day school districts were inspiring to me as were their many positive contributions to the classes. My kudos to Camelot for Kids
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.
It has been amazing to me how many of my colleagues and friends are conflicted over Waiting for Superman. These colleagues and friends mind you are mostly sincere, smart, and authentic about the work we do and need to do to improve the success rates in all our schools for all kids. Some cannot reconcile their own thoughts and assessments with the messages in the documentary. Others flat-out refuse to see the movie.
While I would agree that the documentary is a bit off-balance. for example, it highlights–too much–the problems with teachers unions. There are problems caused by the unions. They do not even begin to highlight the problems often caused by superintendents and schools boards. These groups, too, are part of the current-day problem. Lets be honest–we are ALL a part of the problem. We can all be part of the solution.
To become real parts of the solutions is to abandon the status quo. We must finally abandon the adult-interests so that real student needs and interests will be addressed.
I can understand controversy over the viewing of Waiting for Superman. For the life of me I remain puzzled over the desperate grip so many hold to the status quo.
In my work training and developing new superintendent-hopefuls with the Illinois Superintendents Preparation Academy, I do see signs of hope. I see hope that we can abandon the status quo in order to finally create what works for all kids in every school everyday.
One of my own mentors (Linton Deck) told me many years ago–If you haven’t been fired from one of these jobs you probably haven’t done anything worthwhile for kids. At the time it seemed harsh. Now it seems more true that ever.
Are you breaking ranks from status quo in your work? Kids are relying on it.
Applications have been reviewed and later this week, we will announce the two 2010 (inaugural) cohorts of the Illinois Superintendents Academy. Applicants were considered from many school districts and charter schools from all parts of the great state of Illinois. We are excited to reveal the names, and more excited to learn of so many highly talented and committed educators ready for more significant work to support teachers and students. Look for the names on this blog and on the atlanticresearchpartners.org website. JW
Yesterday, LaQuita Carter, reminded me that Diane Ravitch wrote for her new book that “our educational problems are a function of our lack of educational vision.” Coincidentally, I was re-reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great and the Social Sectors, a supplement to his earlier book, Good to Great to prepare for another client’s project. Part of what we must do as educational leaders–at all levels–is to set a compelling vision, and help others connect to that vision. When we do, and when great work for kids is part of that vision, we easily get teachers and all others swept up in that vision. THX LaQuita and THX Jim Collins for the reminders. JW