Denver’s new school superintendent, Michael Bennet, formerly the mayor’s chief of staff is “incredibly smart” with “strong community relationships, but no K-12 experience, and not much background in the education wars,” writes Rocky Mountain News columnist Linda Seebach in an e-mail. Bennet says his first priority will be hiring a chief academic officer to develop education policy. Seebach asks: How should he go about filling this critical position?
I’d recommend consulting with the folks at Education Trust, which has a no-nonsense attitude toward raising the achievement of disadvantaged students.
He also should consult Zig Engelmann, of Direct Instruction fame, or, at least, readi Engelmann’s response to a column by Alan Bersin, outgoing superintendent in San Diego. Bersin, an attorney who also came in with little education experience, argued in a column that a superintendent must change the paradign to make productivity the top priority.
Bersin “talks about focus on productivity, but nothing he says gives the slightest clue that he knows much about achieving it,” Engelmann writes.
Let’s look at a different way. Let’s say we have a superintendent of a large school district, like San Diego, that believes all of the above and that wants to make a change for the students who are victims of the unshifted paradigm. What would this sensitive superintendent do-given his strong commitment to productivity, data, and students?
He would check the records to see if anything had been done in that district earlier that produced positive results.
He would find out which teachers or supervisors are effective with lower performers, starting with those who are or have been in his district.
He would conduct controlled experiments to determine whether any approaches identified are “authentic” and disseminable.
He would get facts about specifically what is needed to train teachers to be effective.
He would then expand those approaches that consistently lead to higher achievement to all schools in need.