Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stop Waiting for a Savior

The New York Times has a very good op-ed piece laying out the case for a classroom-focused educational system. The article focuses on Cathleen P. Black, the former publishing executive who was removed last week after just three months as New York City’s schools chancellor, however, the lessons learned should be heeded by all.

Basically, the message is the title: Stop Waiting for a Savior

Here are some key points we should pay attention to:

The real issue is not the superintendent’s or chancellor’s background, but the excessive emphasis that politicians, educators and parents place on the notion of leadership rather than on empirical evidence about what improves education.

Even as the specific fixes advocated for schools have changed, the role of school-district leaders has gotten greater attention — and the selection process has become more political.

It doesn’t always take actual success to be lauded and promoted, nor does an education background guarantee anything.

The record shows, however, that serial superintendents tend to do worse — at least in public perception — in their later jobs, which would seem to argue against the importance of experience in the field of education.

Until the headlines and our attention focus on what the research shows can directly improve school performance — additional money, used wisely; longer school days; better-paid and better-prepared teachers; year-round schooling — instead of the latest savior/soon-to-be-failure, we are missing the point.

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