Stories & Grievances
America's Public School System is Taken Over by a Corporate Culture That Gives Us A Chief Academic Officer
The benefits include less taxpayer money handed over to special education services and resources, as well as to teachers, principals and other staff who choose to complain about the business of public school systems. The drawbacks are: special education is no longer an option; services for children with special needs are history; no jobs for whistleblowers, complain and you are out. and, the corporate culture fails at education reform Betsy Combier
Chief Academic Officers lend America's public schools a new perspective on how to manage the large corporation formerly known as the Department of Education. This corporate model is funded by The Broad Foundation, The Teaching Commission, The Gates Foundation and The Carnegie Foundation, supported by research paid for by such prestigious organizations as the National Science Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh to name a few of the biggest contributors.
The implementation of this corporate model necessitated the overhaul of many rules, such as unbiased reporting by the national media and preservation of the right of individuals to due process, but a top-down approach requires that anyone who complains must be terminated without cause. To not do this would jeopardize the mission and focus of the corporate model subscribed to. Special education, for years a money-losing sub-division, is being phased out in order to accommodate the 21st century theories of "self-empowerment" and "all children can learn". This model leads to heterogeneous classrooms where all children can read and learn what they are comfortable with, not rigorous math algorithms that strain the intellect and that are not used in 'real life'; and not labor-intensive research papers that require a look at theories of questionable historical value such as evolution. This approach recognizes that children who act up are a product of disarray in their homes or with their parents/guardians, and these children, without questioning why they are acting in such a way, if they demonstrate unruly behavior must be suspended from the classroom and dumped into 'suspension centers' for rehabilitation. This preserves the stability of the public school classroom, where the primary focus is to provide a well-managed classroom for the teaching of service to America at low-level second-tier jobs or the military.
The American Association of School Administrators has a website full of education guidelines for the future:
"Thinking Differently: Recommendations for 21st Century School Board/Superintendent Leadership, Governance, and Teamwork for High Student Achievement" By Richard H. Goodman and William G. Zimmerman, Jr.. The E-Accountability Foundation believes that this "Mein Kampf" of this new corporate model will surprise you (Should we really do away with The Sunshine Laws?). Don't say we didn't tell you (Betsy Combier, for parentadvocates.org). Exerpts provided below, with sections in bold added by parentadvocates.org editor Betsy Combier:
"The last quarter of the 20th century saw many vigorous efforts to rethink and improve education for America's children and youth. There were countless attempts to improve public schools, from new state standards for student achievement, including high-stakes testing, to charter schools legislation. But one important dimension has largely been overlooked: school district leadership, governance, and teamwork.
Strong, collaborative leadership by local school boards and school superintendents is a key cornerstone of the foundation for high student achievement. That leadership is essential to forming a community vision for children, crafting long-range goals and plans for raising the achievement of every child, improving the professional development and status of teachers and other staff, and ensuring that the guidance, support, and resources needed for success are available. If this country is serious about improving student achievement and maximizing the development of all of its children, then local educational leadership teams - superintendents and school board members - must work cooperatively and collaboratively to mobilize their communities to get the job done!
While politicians and corporate leaders clamor for state tests that link minimum scores to high school diplomas, educators are teaching students who, particularly in urban and remote rural areas, are weighed down by issues of poverty, health, and safety that obstruct and defeat learning. America's leaders at all levels must understand and address the current needs of children, families, schools, and communities and adjust social policy to today's realities, however daunting they may be.
Leadership for High Student Achievement
This report spells out what the authors, guided by a broad panel of national educators - the National Advisory Committee on School Board/Superintendent Leadership, Governance, and Teamwork for High Student Achievement - believe must be done to develop and strengthen local board/superintendent leadership to attain the overriding goal of high achievement for every child. While we recognize that the challenges facing school district leaders are very different in large cities in comparison to suburbs, towns, and rural areas, there is no doubt that public school leaders are up to the challenge. Throughout the history of American public education, our schools have successfully met and overcome challenges just as weighty and complex as those now facing them. Effective, collaborative, and courageous board/superintendent leadership teams are needed today to carry on and enhance what past leaders have accomplished. At the turn of a new century, the heightened public concern about education represents an opportunity to focus attention and gather the resources necessary to reach the ultimate goal: high achievement and healthy development for all children...
For our part, we remain undismayed by the critics' incessant chant that the system is broken and must be rebuilt. Rather than lament public education's shortcomings, we prefer to build on its achievements, and we urge all Americans to join us in this outlook. Public schools carry the lion's share of educating the nation's children. They are the primary and fundamental contributors to America's successes in learning, business, the arts, science and technology, and a host of other endeavors. Led by school boards and superintendents who are accountable to the public, the current system has educated nearly 90 percent of America's workers, inventors, authors, scientists, corporate leaders, artists, and computer technicians. For more than two centuries, the American public education system has thrived on local experimentation and avoided excessive centralization of power. It has absorbed much of the nation's anger and angst regarding racial issues and desegregation. It has responded positively to the call to educate children with special needs. Through it all, America has grown and prospered through the brainpower and productivity of its people. Indeed, our nation currently enjoys the highest standard of living and the greatest degree of prosperity the world has ever known. It is good to recall that the vast majority of us are products of public schools.
These successes, and the fact that millions upon millions of students still thrive in our public schools, cannot be ignored. Yet these accomplishments, impressive as they are, are not enough. Children throughout our nation who are beset by poverty still face formidable obstacles to the kind of learning they need to succeed in a fast-paced society and a global economy. Too many children continue to fall through the cracks. Too many young people leave high school ill-prepared to enter either college or the workforce. If we are to prepare tomorrow's workers and citizens to succeed, we must educate all of our children to high levels.
Strengthening Board/Superintendent Leadership Teams
Our research has identified a number of successful school systems that are distinguished from others by school boards and superintendents that function as true leadership teams. In an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual support, an effective leadership team can focus on student, teacher, and community needs and achievements; policy development; long-range planning and progress toward goals; and an effective allocation of resources. Essentially, the board/superintendent leadership team, if freed from political distractions, can work successfully on its most critical task: promoting high achievement for all students.
This publication recommends what we believe must be done to create strong board/superintendent leadership teams. We make recommendations for major changes in state laws, in local policies, in the graduate and continuing education of superintendents, and in developing local board/superintendent leadership teams. All are aimed at supporting the optimal development of every child.
We have identified seven key strategies to strengthen school board/superintendent leadership and teamwork. They are:
1. A redefinition of student achievement to include a broad array of educational goals
2. A strong, unified leadership and governance body at the school district level, with the overriding goal of providing quality education for all children
3. New state laws on school district governance to support the unified school board/superintendent leadership team
4. Mobilizing communities and staff to focus on high student achievement
5. A new approach to preparing and training school boards and superintendents that will support their coming together as unified leadership teams
6. Public consciousness-raising for high student achievement
7. The establishment of a National Center for Board/Superintendent Leadership, which will be responsible for advocating and implementing these strategies and for carrying out research to support continuous improvement in the leadership of local school systems
We explore these strategies in the following discussion and incorporate them in the recommendations.
What Is Student Achievement?
Achievement all too often is defined simply as passing a standardized achievement test. That definition leaves out too much that we want for and from our children. In response to the problems documented first in A Nation at Risk (1983) and in a barrage of education reports since, many politicians and policy makers have turned to a "quick fix" school reform approach based entirely on test scores. In contrast, the National School Boards Association in Raising the Bar: A School Board Primer on Student Achievement (1998) suggests a much broader definition of achievement. Among its educational goals, this definition includes:
1. Academic attainment reaching beyond what a state test or other standardized test currently measures (e.g., higher order thinking skills, intellectual curiosity and creativity)
2. Job skills and preparation
3. Citizenship (e.g., volunteerism, voting, community service, abiding by laws)
4. Appreciation of the arts
5. Development of character and values (e.g., integrity, responsibility, courtesy, patriotism, and a work ethic)
To this definition, we must add two significant items:
1. Sound physical development and optimal health of all children throughout their formative years to prepare them for healthy, productive lives as adults
2. Helping our children and youth understand and value the growing diversity of American society
Even with a talented and visionary board/superintendent team at the helm, reaching the goal of high student achievement depends upon thinking differently about teaching, learning, public engagement, self-development, and teamwork. The meaning of achievement for the whole child must be rethought by the entire community, led by the board/superintendent team, and embraced by teachers, principals, parents, students, and other citizens...
Leadership from the board/superintendent team is essential for inspiring and implementing the community's vision for children. In his landmark book, Leadership Without Easy Answers, psychiatrist and professor Ronald Heifetz of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University points out that leaders not only "mobilize people to face problems because leaders challenge and help them do so," but also that mobilization and "getting that work done is the essence of leadership." Sustaining a community and staff vision for the healthy development and high achievement of all children over the long haul is a primary challenge of the board/superintendent leadership team.
Attracting and Retaining Qualified School Board Members
Despite the increased public focus on education, public involvement in education has steadily declined. Busy Americans place an increasingly higher premium on their free time. One price paid for this shift in priorities is an unwillingness to spend time serving on school boards. Many boards experience significant turnover at each election, with members often serving only a single term. Compounding this problem, the alarmingly limited tenure of many superintendents leads to significant discontinuity in goal and program direction and to a near-complete loss of long-range institutional perspective. Such deficits quickly pervade the entire community and can just as quickly lead to a loss of confidence in the schools.
To attract citizens to serve on a local school board, state laws and local policies must make clear that the roles and responsibilities of school boards, in collaboration with the superintendent, should focus on leadership and governance for high student achievement. Citizens will be more inclined to continue to serve on a school board when more time at board meetings is spent on developing goals and policies for quality education for all children and less time on administrative details such as personnel matters, bus schedules, roof repairs, and selecting an athletic coach.
Attracting and Preparing Outstanding Educators to Become Outstanding Superintendents
The complexities of modern-day education, together with today's political realities, economic constraints, and social problems, make the job of the superintendent one of the most challenging of all chief executive undertakings. Perpetually changing technologies, a proliferation of state and federal regulations, and an avalanche of pressure-packed factors (e.g., changing demographics, board member turnover, conflicts between board members and citizens, school privatization, mayoral takeovers, decentralization, teacher empowerment) have dramatically changed the role of the superintendent. Most university programs for preparing educators for the superintendency have been caught unprepared to address these issues.
Given these factors, the critical shortage of qualified superintendents should come as no surprise. Further, compensation of superintendents is disappointingly low when compared to that of university presidents or CEOs in private industry, many of whom manage comparable or smaller budgets and staff. America needs to ensure that its most outstanding educators, those with leadership potential, are well prepared to become superintendents of schools, well compensated for their leadership skills, and well supported in their efforts to bring about change as part of an effective leadership team.
To do that, three critical changes must be made. First, the superintendent position itself must be made more appealing to top educators. Appeal can be generated by making sure that superintendents and school boards function as collaborative leadership teams, with appropriate community, administrative, and political support, including executive compensation tied to the demands and scope of the job. Second, active development and recruitment of educators with leadership potential must become a priority. Third, superintendents must be better prepared for their jobs, through both initial university graduate-level programs and continuing education throughout their careers.
Achieving Continuous Board/Superintendent Education and Development
Schools, like all institutions, need continuous renewal to fulfill their mission of educating all children to high levels of achievement. We strongly support and recommend high-quality, state-mandated instruction each year for the school board/superintendent team. We believe that the board/superintendent team will become more effective when board members and the superintendent participate together in leadership renewal. The topics for instruction should be tied directly to the key responsibilities of the school board and the board/superintendent team, and to the needs of children and the educational process as these change over time. This kind of instruction and stimulation will help a true leadership team develop collaborative skills, create trust, and inspire its community to support high student achievement.
State associations of school boards and administrators should be major providers of such orientation and instruction, as many have well-established programs that have proven to be highly effective.
Revisiting Laws that Impede Effective School Governance
Most school board members and superintendents take on their roles because they are dedicated to improving the education of children. Often, these public-spirited citizens and educators are frustrated to find that local and state laws hinder them in getting their real work done. Too many state laws require or allow boards to engage in the operational detail of a school system, i.e. expecting them to hire and fire staff, adopt textbooks, adjust school bus stops, and approve field trips. In addition, the processes established by these laws too often result in an adversarial "Me-Them" relationship between superintendent and board.
State law should make clear that a key task of the board of education is to hire, oversee, support, and evaluate the work of the superintendent, who in turn recommends policy and oversees personnel matters, budget, and financial matters, with accountability to the board for implementation. Typically, the superintendent recommends, the board members deliberate with one another and the superintendent, and then they reach a board decision. The potential for controversy is always present. State laws should be rewritten to delineate clearly the key policy role of the school board, the overarching leadership role of the board/superintendent team, and the executive/managerial role of the superintendent.
"Sunshine laws" in many states require all school board sessions to be open to the public. Despite certain clear advantages, we believe such laws can sometimes impede the smooth working of a collaborative leadership team. While the important work of school boards should certainly be open to the public, there are situations that require executive sessions. Public scrutiny, although obviously important in most instances, can often restrict candid communication and get in the way of team building. State laws should ensure that board/superintendent teams are authorized to meet privately from time to time, exempt from open meeting laws, to evaluate the work of the team and of one another, but not take action regarding district policy matters.
The Illinois legislature has long recognized the need for boards and superintendents to meet privately to evaluate and improve their teamwork for children. Illinois law includes an exception to its open meeting law, enabling a public body to hold a closed session for "self-evaluation, practices and procedures or professional ethics, when meeting with a representative of a statewide association of which the public body is a member."...
Thinking Differently about Standards for Leadership Teams
First and foremost, the board and superintendent must become a unified governance and leadership team, with unity of purpose, a clear mission, and a sense of responsibility for action to achieve a long-term vision. Inspired by standards developed by the Alaska, California, Georgia, and South Carolina School Board Associations, the Texas Education Agency, and the "Four Thrusts for Leadership" created by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), we list here five standards for board/superintendent team leadership. We recommend that these standards - vision, structure, accountability, advocacy, and unity - be used as criteria for continuous development and self-evaluation of a team's leadership and governance performance:
1. Vision: The board/superintendent team, using a participatory process, involves the community and staff in creating and continually developing a shared vision for all children. This team leadership mobilizes the community to give the highest priority to children, and keeps the schools and community focused on meeting the needs of all children. Further, the board/superintendent team uses the vision to guide its deliberations, decisions, and actions.
2. Structure: The board/superintendent team provides policy, goals, a management plan, and financial resources to support the vision. The team sets high standards for teaching and learning based on the best available information about the knowledge and skills students will need in the future. It ensures progress toward the vision through feedback from students, staff, parents, and the community at-large, as well as by providing the necessary financial resources. The team establishes a management system that results in participatory decision making and encourages and supports quality approaches to teaching and learning.
3. Accountability: The board/superintendent team adopts an accountability plan to evaluate community and school progress toward accomplishing the vision, and reports the results to the public. The team receives regular reports on all students using a variety of measurement tools to evaluate the quality and equity of the educational program. It makes sure that long- and short-term plans are evaluated and revised with the needs of the students as their top priority. The accountability plan holds students, teachers, parents, and administrators accountable for progress toward the goal of high achievement and healthy development of all children.
4. Advocacy: The board/superintendent team becomes the community's leading advocate for children, insisting on the necessary resources to support the educational system, and celebrating the achievements of students, quality teachers, and the accomplishments of others who contribute to the education of children. The team establishes partnerships throughout the community and ensures effective communications with students, teachers, other employees, media, and the community. The leadership team supports the professional development and professional status of all teachers and other staff. The board and superintendent find opportunities to build relationships with other local leaders and state and federal legislators to help them understand the need for adequate funding for children.
5. Unity: The board and superintendent work as a unified team to lead the district toward the vision. The leadership team develops skills in teamwork, problem solving, and decision making, and is committed to continually improving its collaborative work for children. The board and superintendent periodically evaluate the effectiveness of their leadership, governance, and teamwork for high student achievement, and report to the community on aspects of the vision that need more attention and support.
Thinking Differently about Public Engagement
In his book Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz reminds us that leaders "must challenge their community to face problems for which there are no simple, painless solutions - problems that will require learning new ways." Perhaps the most important task of every board/superintendent team is to lead the community to face the problems and assault the barriers that are blocking the potential of its children. That kind of leadership can inspire and engage citizens, staff, and students neighborhood by neighborhood, using whatever means possible to create a community vision and long-range plan.
We recommend promoting such a dialogue using a variety of strategies, such as monthly coffees, town meetings, focus groups, written surveys, meetings with other boards and agencies in the community, Web sites, and the use of the press, radio, and community television; in short, whatever works.
Thinking Differently about Board/Superintendent Leadership Team Development
Becoming a leadership team is not necessarily something that comes naturally. This is a tricky relationship, one that requires careful development and nurturing. A number of guidelines can help create and maintain a stable and unified leadership team.
First, state-mandated continuing education of school leadership teams will help ensure that all board members and superintendents are prepared for the job at hand, are aware of its challenges, and are clear about the mission. Yearly instruction, particularly when given to individual board/superintendent teams, will enable continuous renewal and commitment to fulfilling the mission of educating all children. Several states have already mandated such instruction for both new and veteran school board members, and the results have been enormously positive.
Second, in addition to continuous education and renewal, we recommend that team evaluation and development workshops be held in a private setting four times each year led by an experienced facilitator whenever possible. Exempt from open meeting laws, the team can hold candid discussions about what it must do to keep the school system and community focused on high student achievement. The team can also take an honest look at the progress and problems associated with board/superintendent leadership and governance in reaching annual and long-range goals. The results of these meetings should be shared with the public.
To augment the benefit of these workshops, the board/superintendent team should take advantage of the wealth of printed and video material available through national and state school board and administrator associations geared to helping local school boards and superintendents. The Internet has greatly facilitated access to such materials, and board members and superintendents should not miss out on the information and guidance that these materials provide.
Finally, to advance the concept of board/superintendent teamwork, state associations may wish to consider holding a joint conference for school boards and superintendents each year, as currently practiced in several states.
Thinking Differently about Roles of School Boards and Superintendents
When board members and superintendents are unclear about who is responsible for which duties, conflict, inefficiency, and frustration are inevitable. Above all else, an effective leadership team requires that the board and superintendent establish and maintain a constructive working relationship with one another..."Continued...
Parentadvocates.org:: We believe that the corporate education model mission was perfected at a 2002 Broad Foundation Retreat, where leaders of the 'American education reform' could meet each other.
Chief Academic Officers
The emergence of a focused No. 2 post brings a new dynamic to the central office
BY JAY MATHEWS
The School Administrator Web Edition
Elizabeth "Betty" Morgan, a veteran Maryland educator working in Frederick County, three years ago saw the advertisement for a new position in the Baltimore city schools. The school system was looking for a chief academic officer, someone to serve as the No. 2 person in the district, reporting to a new chief executive officer, Robert Booker, whose background as an accountant required the support of an educational professional.
Morgan liked the idea of a responsible position in a big city school system. But she didn't like the title, at least not at first. School leaders with her experience, she says, "usually want to have 'superintendent' in their title for their resume and future job opportunities." Also, she says, "I didn't really understand at that time what a CAO is and should be."
She was not alone. When the Maryland state senate passed Senate Bill 795, its decision to establish a chief academic officer in Baltimore was unusual and often misunderstood. The state was deeply involving itself in the reorganization and revival of the low-performing Baltimore schools. This was, in effect, a reaction to an even more radical change in educational governance, the decision by many struggling urban districts to hire superintendents from business, law or the military who never had taught a public school class, much less run a school system.
The nation's three largest school systems, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, now all have nontraditional superintendents or chief executive officers. Many experts expect their numbers to grow, both because school boards are prone to follow administrative fashion and because the growing demand for improved school performance seems to require more political and administrative skills than many long-time educators possess.
That in turn means more CAOs, or at least more veteran educators in No. 2 administrative jobs with more responsibility and higher salaries than are usually attached to deputy superintendent positions.
An Interpreter's Role
A new dynamic is coming to school district headquarters. In the past, superintendents and their chief deputies usually had much in common. They all looked back on early days as teachers and principals. They generally agreed on the right approach to dealing with parents, students and school board members.
The introduction of nontraditional superintendents means school chiefs are more likely to think of themselves as men from Mars, full of new and potentially powerful ideas but handicapped by an inability to speak the local language. Their CAO then becomes not only chief deputy but also interpreter, someone on whom they must rely to communicate with the rest of the staff. This gives the position unusual power, experts say, and requires even more diplomatic and administrative talent than is usually found in deputy superintendents.
"These new, nontraditional superintendents often recognize that if they are to exercise leadership with their teachers, they must compensate for the fact that they do not know curriculum and instruction," says Susan Moore Johnson, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "In appointing CAOs . . . they convey to staff and the public their instructional priorities."
When this trend began, Morgan recalls, "there was a perception that public education was in decline. Test scores were falling nationally and the local business communities everywhere were being very critical of public education."
Not only did the former corporate executives and generals who were becoming superintendents need veteran educators working closely with them, but the results-conscious school boards that had appointed them wanted new educational titles to reflect the corporate structure they hoped to impose on the failed education bureaucracy.
"These titles came about to make education look more business-like." Morgan says. The CEO title approved by the Maryland legislature, she adds, was to "signal it's a new day in Baltimore City."
The resulting realignments of responsibilities in school districts took many forms, but usually fed on the feeling that no-nonsense business executives or military officers could succeed where administrators with education degrees could not. David E. Johnson, until recently the CAO for the 10,000-student East Allen County, Ind., schools, says his superintendent, Jeff H. Abbott, was a lawyer-educator (he had experience in both law and school offices) who exemplified the nontraditional superintendent's interest in reforming the way school districts are structured.
Abbott says he thought changing titles would help the business community better understand the school district's administrative structure, but the primary reason for the change was "to focus our organization on academics."
A Model Assistant
No educator holding a CAO-type position has received more favorable publicity or been more often cited as a model for the new breed of administrator than Anthony J. Alvarado, the chancellor of instruction for the San Diego Public Schools. Alvarado was appointed by one of the most unusual of the new nontraditional superintendents, Alan D. Bersin. When named to the job in 1998, Bersin was neither a businessman nor a general but the U.S. attorney for San Diego, a professional crime fighter.
Bersin soon made headlines by luring Alvarado, one of the nation's best-known advocates for change in schools, from the New York City school system, where he had once been chancellor and had, for the last 12 years, been head of Community School District 2. Alvarado put a new emphasis on literacy and mathematics education, set up special focus programs in low-performing schools and saw quick results. Sixty-eight percent of the 142 San Diego schools measured by the state last year showed strong academic improvement, making them eligible for cash performance awards.
Alvarado's example appears to have persuaded other school boards to follow the same path, find a non-educator to deal with the school board, handle public relations and set an overall tone, while putting a very aggressive and imaginative CAO in charge of the business of making the schools improve.
The CAO title already is used frequently in universities, giving it an additional cache. Harvard's Susan Moore Johnson says calling someone a chief academic officer does seem to elevate its holder "above the traditional deputy or associate superintendent for instruction. ... It seems to have moved somewhat closer to the top of the pyramid."
In many districts, she says, the associate superintendent for instruction is at the same level as the director of human resources or associate superintendent for personnel. But, Johnson says, "it seems that the new CAOs are now superior in authority, influence and pay to all positions but the superintendent."
In Baltimore, Morgan's CAO duties put her in charge of all teaching and learning activities in the city's 180 schools. Area superintendents report to her directly. She oversees professional development, whole school reform and the school improvement office. She has coordinating responsibility for special education and the office of research and accountability.
"I believe that while I'm the No. 2, my position is the key to the school system's academic success and, if you've noticed the dramatic improvement Baltimore has been experiencing over the last two years, the CAO position, I believe, has been crucial to that success."
Most education experts agree that the new position is a natural outgrowth of the rise of the nontraditional superintendent.
"The proponents of the model have realized that many nontraditionalists do not have the leadership skills for the position," says Art Johnson, the former CAO at Palm Beach County, Fla., where he now is superintendent.
Johnson's background is typical for chief academic officers- a Ph.D. in education administration and 35 years of experience in all phases of teaching and administration, including school principal.
When Seattle's superintendent, Joseph Olchefske, announced the appointment of a new CAO in 1999, he extolled his selection, June Collins Rimmer, for being "an educator's educator." Olchefske had come from a career in public finance and had no education degree. Faced with running a 47,000-student district, he made it clear how much he needed the support of someone like Rimmer with a 29-year career as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent in the 42,000-student Indianapolis school district.
In many cases the new superintendent or CEO has opted for an experienced educator who knows the local area well. When Marine Col. A.G. Davis ended a 27-year military career to become CEO of the New Orleans public schools in 1999, he found a veteran Louisiana administrator, Ollie Tyler, to become chief academic officer. She helped complete the five-year strategic plan created by the business-backed Greater New Orleans Education Foundation.
Tyler had served 31 years in the Caddo Parish school system, where she was second-in-command when Davis called her.
Often unmentioned in commentaries about the new powers of the CAO is the job's potential benefits as an insurance policy for a school board that finds its nontraditional superintendent unsatisfactory or, as happened in the District of Columbia schools, suddenly gone.
The D.C. financial control board, which had taken over the school system under a congressional initiative in 1996, appointed former U.S. Army Gen. Julius W. Becton Jr. to be the first-ever CEO of its 71,000-student system. A year later it endorsed Becton's decision to name Arlene Ackerman, who had been CAO to one of the first major nontraditional superintendents, John Stanford in Seattle, as his new chief academic officer.
Becton had indicated he would not stay in the job forever, but the control board members were stunned when less than a year after Ackerman's arrival, the general resigned without warning. The April 14, 1998, resignation letter said he was unhappy about a control board member criticizing him in The Washington Post and about the board's failure to provide enough money for a teacher pay raise. "I have had it!" the letter concluded. "30 April will be my last official day of duty as CEO."
With Ackerman on board, the D.C. authorities had a proven leader who stepped quickly into the gap and soon was named superintendent herself. However, there was no equally strong second-in-command in place two years later when more boardroom strife led Ackerman to resign and become superintendent in San Francisco.
Some routes to the CAO job have been unique and often influenced by local politics. Art Johnson, for instance, newly named superintendent in Palm Beach County, Fla., had a long career as an administrator in the district. But he was forced to resign as an area superintendent over a controversy involving a teacher who kept a "slackers box" for misbehaving students at a school where Johnson had been principal.
Johnson proceeded to win election to a seat on the school board and then voted to fire the superintendent who had ousted him. The interim superintendent appointed him CAO, at which time he vowed to revamp the district's reading program.
The more CAO positions that are created, the more varied each job's duties are likely to be. Some are nearly independent operators, given free rein to make policy. Some are mere mouthpieces for the superintendent's directives. But some experts wonder if No. 2 positions in school districts ever can stray far from the traditional need to execute the day-to-day details of the top executive's agenda. How different do the new CAOs think their lives are from those of deputy superintendents for instruction?
Betty Morgan in Baltimore has worked for four superintendents or CEOs in the last five years, first as an associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction and then as chief academic officer. She said in one respect the jobs are the same because whatever her bosses' titles, they have not always had the time to become deeply involved in issues of learning and teaching.
"Many boards of education still suffer from the delusion that the superintendent should be the instructional leader of the system," she says. "I think that's a fallacy. Do we expect the chief hospital administrator to teach the medical interns or operate on a patient? Now, certainly it helps if that person is a doctor, but I wouldn't want him/her to be operating on my brain! It is good enough, in my opinion, if the superintendent/CEO is an excellent fiscal and human manager and provides good leadership so specialists, like myself, can perform their jobs at optimum level. The CEO is really too busy in a large school system and should be too busy to also be the chief education leader and we've got to realize this and bless the separation of duties."
David Johnson, the former CAO in East Allen County, Ind., says Abbott, his superintendent, often indicated he was "generally consumed with political matters. On matters of operations and academics, while he might know his preferred outcome, he generally deferred to others." Abbott says his focus was on board and community relations and managing the central-office staff and that it would be more accurate to say he delegated authority, rather than deferred to staff.
For CAOs to operate effectively, they have to be confident in their administrative abilities and expertise in the financial and operational issues that affect learning. Cozette Buckney, the chief educational officer and No. 2 administrator for the Chicago Public Schools, was a former principal with extensive experience at school headquarters when she was picked by the nontraditional chief executive officer, Paul Vallas, to be the chief administrator for academics, Chicago's version of a CAO.
She said she liked the power the new title and new responsibilities convey to her. "The more authority that you have, the more responsibility you have to get things done, the better opportunity you have to accomplish that," she says.
As a key player in the transition to Chicago's new administrative setup, Buckney says she learned about "scan charts and backward planning" and several other business practices that have been useful to her in her new role.
Some CAOs don't see much difference between their duties under their new title and those of an assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. Art Johnson, the former CAO in Palm Beach County, Fla., says it's "very similar. ... However, the separation from the business activities of the district is much more sharply distinguished. Our CAO is pure academic."
Sometimes the title is adjusted for political and personal reasons. In 1999 the Michigan state legislature approved a restructuring of the Detroit school district that included the creation of a position of CEO and a chief academic officer, the title used in the bill. But when the new CEO, Kenneth S. Burnley, named Kay Royster to the job, he gave her the title of deputy CEO, curriculum and instruction.
The title adjustment seemed to be in recognition of the role played by Juanita Clay Chambers, a veteran Detroit educator who had been in charge of curriculum and was given the title of associate superintendent for educational services. Whatever her title, Royster's responsibilities were just as broad as the state had said they had to be.
June Collins Rimmer
The CAO title also has begun to appear in some districts not as large as the urban centers. Brenda Tanner, a University of Virginia professor with much school district administrative experience, says she was drawn to an announcement of a new CAO position in Horry County, S.C., as she scanned the AASA Web site last year. "I thought it was so interesting," she says.
In August, after a detailed round of interviews with the administrative team at the 28,000-student district, Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait told Tanner the job was hers. "I absolutely love the position and the district," Tanner says.
She is part of a cabinet of chief officers. Others are responsible for finance, personnel and support services, and all report directly to the superintendent.
In East Allen County, Ind., the superintendent made his CAO, David Johnson, the No. 3 executive, with a title of associate superintendent and CAO. The second in command had the title of deputy superintendent and chief operations officer. Both Johnson and the No. 2 reported directly to Abbott.
"My duties as a CAO may not have differed much from the traditional superintendent for instruction," Johnson says, "although there were some things that we added that were perhaps new to the field."
One of the expanded duties was the instructional audit, a business practice refitted for classroom analysis. "We identified a measurement instrument, then hired observers to sit in a scientifically selected sample of classrooms to record the methods that teachers used to instruct their students," Johnson says. "All our staff development would be built upon the baseline resulting from those observations."
But Johnson's superintendent dispensed with the CAO title after one year. Johnson believes misunderstandings arose because operations and academics were managed by different people on roughly the same administrative level. "So much of what a CAO does to improve student academic achievement is related to operations," he says. "To have two like-level positions that overlap results in conflicts."
An executive director for academics position was created instead and instructed to report to the deputy superintendent. Johnson left the system last November and is now a senior program evaluator with Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas.
A few other districts have moved contrary to the national trend and reduced the power of, or completely eliminated, CAO positions. Last year Dee Morgan was promoted from CAO in Columbus, Ohio, to a new job with greater pay and responsibilities as deputy superintendent for academic achievement. Her new title and position are much closer to the traditional school administrative setup than the business-oriented model that inspired the rise of CAOs. Pittsburgh recently altered the title of Paula Butterfield, who was a highly accomplished superintendent in Montana, from chief academic officer to deputy superintendent, out of misunderstandings about her role.
And some critics have suggested that the move to a CEO/CAO system can in some instances make no more sense than redecorating a house without doing anything about the termites. In Philadelphia, for instance, Superintendent David W. Hornbeck resigned last year after saying he could not make the necessary changes in the system with the inadequate funding he was receiving from the state. The school board announced that it was turning his job into two positions, following the new fashion, and setting up a CEO and a CAO.
The state made no promises of more money for the Philadelphia district. Board members had hoped the restructuring would strengthen the schools' improvement all the same.
In Baltimore, Morgan's tenure as CAO has required her to make sudden adjustments. The first CEO she worked for left after two years and another, this time a traditional educator, Carmen V. Russo, took his place. But Morgan has been getting good reviews for significant academic gains, which the city's education-conscious newspaper, The Baltimore Sun, has attributed to her intense focus on improving reading and other programs in the early elementary grades.
In the meantime, she has grown to appreciate the title she once considered slightly confusing. "I actually like the CAO title now and wouldn't change it," Morgan says, "because it does signal that I am the chief education officer for the system and in the business of education, that's a key position."
What CEOs or superintendents do in large school systems, she says, is vital but not immediately connected to making schools work. What they do is "mostly concerned with money, politics and keeping five, seven, nine or 11 members of the board informed on any given day.
"I find," she adds, "that being able to be successful at improving the education of kids and getting real results to be very, very rewarding."
Jay Mathews is an education writer with The Washington Post. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org feature
"In the past, superintendents and their chief deputies usually had much in common."
"Their CAO then becomes not only chief deputy but interpreter, someone on whom they must rely to communicate with the rest of the staff."
"In many cases the new superintendent or CEO has opted for an experienced educator who knows the local area well."
"For CAOs to operate effectively, they have to be confident in their administrative abilities and expertise in the financial and operational issues that affect learning."
"And some critics have suggested that the move to a CEO/CAO system can in some instances make no more sense than redecorating a house without doing anything about the termites."
The Roles and Responsibilities of School Boards and Superintendents - A State Policy Framework (9/02)
Louis Gerstner, Jr. is Advocating for a Fool's Errand
Comments on 'Teaching At Risk: A Call To Action'
People to Interview: e-Lead Roster
The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems is a national nonprofit organization established by The Broad Foundation and former Michigan Governor John Engler. Its mission is to improve student achievement by recruiting, training and supporting executive leadership talent from across America to become the next generation of urban school district leaders.
The Center offers executive leadership development programs for aspiring and current chief executive officers in our nation's largest urban school systems. We seek outstanding leaders from business, government, the military, nonprofit, K-12 education and higher education who have successfully managed large, complex organizations.
THE URBAN SUPERINTENDENTS ACADEMY
The Academy is a rigorous, ten-month executive management program designed to prepare the next generation of public school chief executives. Twenty-three accomplished professionals completed the program in November 2002 and became the first class of Broad Center Fellows. A second cohort of 19 Fellows graduated from the Academy in November 2003.
A third group of 22 leaders began their participation in the Urban Superintendents Academy in February 2004.
The Academy expects Fellows to move rapidly into CEO or other senior executive positions in urban school systems after graduation. To date, six Fellows from the first two classes have been appointed as superintendents in the districts of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Charleston, South Carolina; Christina, Deleware; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Oakland, California; and Providence, Rhode Island. Several other graduates -- including a number of "non-traditional" Fellows with significant experience outside education -- have been hired or promoted as senior executives in large urban districts or as superintendents in smaller urban districts.
1. on the failure of the corporate model:
School officials question effectiveness of algebra program
FORT WORTH, Texas -- After pumping nearly $15 million into an experimental algebra program, school officials are questioning the former superintendent's ties with its creator and trying to figure out if it helped students learn.
At the urging of then-Superintendent Thomas Tocco, the Fort Worth school district became the first in the nation to heavily invest in the computer-based program I CAN Learn, spending almost $3.2 million in 1999.
Unlike other computerized algebra programs, I CAN Learn is designed to be the core of classroom instruction, not a supplement to teachers' lessons. It lets students move through the curriculum at their own pace.
Its creator has estimated that outfitting a typical classroom with 30 students would cost $300,000, including computer software and hardware and special desks and chairs.
Year after year, the district spent more money on the program, even as teachers questioned its effectiveness. When initial evaluations were disappointing, Tocco blamed the teachers. Although teachers pointed out bugs in the program, Tocco pushed through the purchase of more labs.
The school board never questioned Tocco, who was reassigned last year in the wake of a construction fraud scandal. Now, however, they wonder if it was money well spent. The district hired a consulting firm in October to examine whether I CAN Learn has helped Fort Worth children.
"I don't think the previous superintendent gave us the real facts about the program," Trustee T.A. Sims said in Sunday's edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "There were things that were given us that may have been true or they may have not been true."
The program has had mixed results when it comes to standardized test scores.
About 11 percent of Fort Worth's first I CAN Learn students passed the state's End-of-Course exam in 2000, while 8 percent of the students in traditional classrooms passed. In 2002, I CAN Learn ninth-graders passed the state exam at a rate more than 11 percentage points higher than those in traditional classrooms.
Last year, the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills passing rates for I CAN Learn ninth-graders was 29.8 percent, slightly higher than the 27.8 percent for traditional students. But the 43.8 percent passing rate for I CAN Learn seventh-graders was actually lower than the 45.4 percent rate for those taught using traditional methods.
John R. Lee, the founder of the company that created I CAN Learn, said his program will stand up to any challenges. He said he hopes the district continues to fund the program.
"If I cannot come in and show statistical evidence of improvement, well, then I shouldn't be in business," he said.
Tocco did not respond to the newspaper's requests for an interview. But in recent testimony for one of several Louisiana lawsuits concerning a dispute over the company's operation, he portrayed himself as a crusader for a program he believed in.
"The algebra product was absolutely perfect _ in my estimation, perfect content, perfect pedagogy," he testified.
But Linda Antinone, a math teacher whom Tocco sent to New Orleans to evaluate I CAN Learn in early 1999, said she told him she doubted the program would work. She said one student who had finished the course still didn't seem to understand what a variable was.
She said Tocco told her, "I'll read your comments, but I can tell you we're going with this." Trustees said they don't recall Tocco telling them any staff member disliked the program.
Tocco was so enamored with the program that he informally allied himself with Lee's company, JRL Enterprises. Though Tocco and JRL executives said he never received compensation from the company, he solicited Congress on its behalf, recommended its product to other school districts and frequently traveled to its New Orleans headquarters at district expense.
The consulting firm's report is expected in mid-March. Its findings will weigh heavily in the district's decision whether to proceed with $3 million in additional commitments, Superintendent Joe Ross said.
"It's expensive and I don't know that anyone would say right now that it is cost-effective," said school board president Bill Koehler. "We are just going to have to wait and see."
The San Diego, California, Blueprint For Success is Dead
San Diego Superintendent Alan Bersin may Not be in his Job Much Longer
NYC HOLD News Page
2. on the Bush administration forging ahead anyway:
The US DOE and The Broad Foundation Announce a Partnership
The Buying of the Media in America