Chiefs for Change

The nation’s best state school superintends gathered at Excellence in Action. Here are a few highlights:
Tony Bennet, Indiana, implemented the A-F school grading system to push communities to action.  He said the second step is holding people accountability and intervening in the case of failure.  Bennet stressed telling the plain truth, “You have to have the courage to look teachers, superintendents, and communities members in the eyes and say, ‘This is what we’re for, tell me if you have a better idea.'”  Bennet said schools need to re-mediate and then remove ineffective teachers. “We are about professionalizing the most noble profession,” he said.
Paul Pastorek from Louisiana said, “New Orleans is a wonderful example of breaking up the monopoly. Monopolies are not efficient and not responsive.”
The Recovery School District created a clean slate and a decentralized system.  “In partnership with TFA and NLNS, we’ve beefed up the human capital pipeline,” Pastorek said, “with support of several foundations.”  Pastorek also said that charters schools provided the framework, “We have a long way to go but it shows a lot of promise.”  He believes competition is key to continuous improvement.
Deborah Gist, Rhode Island, said, “Our theory of action is a great teacher in the classroom and a great leader in every school. That requires an evaluation system that is accurate and fair.”
Eric Smith, Florida, pointed to comprehensive efforts that have resulted in dramatic statewide improvement,  including an easily understood accountability system (e.g., letter grades for schools) and redefining the role of the state to be less involved in good schools and more involved in struggling schools.
Gerard Robinson, Virginia, talked about the importance of digital learning and highlighted his recent Innovate to Educate summit.
The five superintendents formed Chiefs for Change to address the hard core challenges facing states.  In addition to belonging to CCSSO, they felt that they needed mutual support for a much more aggressive path that puts children front and center for every decision.

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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