Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Changes in Leadership?

In recent weeks, we have seen a change leadership selection. Mayor Bloomberg appointed Cathleen Black, a former magazine publisher, as Chancellor of NYC schools. Against various protests and potential lawsuits, the Board of Regents approved Black's appointment. This week, New Jersey Governor, Chris Cristie announced that he has asked the Board of Education to lower the requirements for school administrators thus allowing non-academic "managers" an opportunity to function as superintendents.

Under current guidelines, superintendents in New Jersey must hold a master's degree "including a 150-hour graduate internship in educational leadership and passing a superintendent’s assessment." Under the new guidelines being proposed by Governor Christie superintendents would only need a bachelor's degree. The state education commissioner would have ultimately determine the candidate's qualifications.

The full story, published in the New York Times, can be read at

I have very mixed emotions about this as an educator and as an aspiring administrator who is one semester away from graduation. First and foremost, what would these individuals be able to bring to the table? Yes - they know how to manage and lead a team in the private sector, but how will these skills translate in our educational systems? This is not corporate America. We are not playing with profit margins and stock entities. We are here to foster learning; we are here to guide future generations and prepare them for whatever comes next.

How will this impact our transition away from the archaic factory-based educational model? We have realized that it doesn't work; we are steadily moving in a new direction that has shown promise. Wouldn't this be a step back in progress? Wouldn't this go against everything that we have been working towards?

Maybe I'm wrong; I don't think that I am though.

I honestly believe that we need to remodel education, but I do not believe that these changes are part of the equation. Instead, we should focus on our students and our students needs rather than attempting to fit a corporate mold focused on single output models.

I do not believe that there is one perfect model. I wish I had that answer, but I do not. I definitely believe that we should be developing student-focused curriculum maps that provide opportunity and availability. I believe technology will continue to transform the role of schools in education. I believe that our system needs to change and will change - hopefully for the better.

In the meantime, we need to reassess our own roles in education. Are your teachers providing your students with the skills necessary for tomorrow? What do you see when you walk around your building? What are your students learning? What aren't they learning? What are your teachers teaching? What aren't they teaching?

Your responses might surprise you; hopefully they don't scare you....

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