Late last night I completed my duty as a parent member of the principal selection committee for my daughter’s high school. Fully aware there was a strong possibility that this was just a “phony committee” (a wise warning from my mother who worked as a medical school administrator for many years), I gave it my best anyway.
The candidates were discouragingly inadequate, both in number and in scope of experience. Despite months of lead time that this position would need to be filled; the district had only been able to scrounge up three people for us to interview, two had been held for a few weeks and one was slipped in at the very last minute that very same day; we barely had time to read the resume. These three are the only ones who had supposedly passed downtown's screening test and who would be willing to work at our 2000-student, comprehensive high school, a school which holds nearly 16% of OUSD’s high school student body.
Of these three candidates, only one had substantial high school administrative experience. One had a few years of administrative experience at a 260-student charter middle school in central California. The other was just slightly more experienced than that, and was the only one who had ever worked for our district.
Along the way it was admitted to us that OUSD is in crisis because it can’t get people to apply as principals for its schools. The district can’t attract people to apply for other types of administrative positions either, according to a friend who is working for the district as a teacher support person.
In regard to the lack of interested applicants willing to work at the high school level, the number is further reduced because only some are open to working at comprehensive high schools, preferring instead the small high schools. From what I've been told, the pay differential at the large schools isn’t enough to compensate for the increased responsibility and workload. I'm sure some principals would prefer comprehensive high schools, with all the interesting activities which accompany them, so perhaps part of the problem is that the district has passive headhunters. And I can’t help but think that an additional reason for the dearth is because the state-run leadership neglected the identification and proper fostering of its future leaders during its stay here. Now the rooster has come home to roost.
So when an already weak school district has been intentionally and heavily destabilized for six straight years by the manipulations and mismanagement conducted by a sequence of Broad-trained, disruptive-force minded state administrators, what would the appeal to working in that district be, especially since principals can make more money in every single neighboring district? It makes me especially sad to recall three great administrators I knew who were essentially driven away by the "new" mentality brought in by the state, and ended up taking early retirement. Believe me when I tell you they were not only skilled, but dedicated to Oakland's kids.
Before we concluded last night, we were compelled by the district rep to take a final vote to reflect our "choice." He said he was required to do this by his superiors. There was a short discussion about possibly developing a Plan B; some members accepted that as an option and others were strongly opposed. On my scrap of paper I wrote “abstain” and scrawled the message, “I don’t want any of these cars and am willing to keep taking the bus for now.”
I occasionally envy oblivious parents; what people don't know can't hurt them. When I explained what had happened at this meeting to my OUSD teacher friend, she advised, “I say just go to
At any rate, in preparation for the above process, I did a little research about NewLeaders for New Schools.
NewLeaders for New Schools
NewLeaders for New Schools is a relatively new principal training program located in a handful of
cities, including the Bay Area. Founded in 2000 by a team who had attended U.S. and Harvard's Graduate School of Education, it was launched in 2001 in Harvard Business School Chicago by the Broad Foundation and the Chicago Public Education Fund, Arne Duncan’s home stomping ground.
Among the goals NLFNS is working to achieve by 2014 is to create a “world-class, scalable, sustainable, data-driven organization that has created an essential knowledge base that is actively used by education policy and decision-makers to drive educational excellence at scale. This innovative "action tank" will blend the power of a think tank with the results of and lessons learned from highly successful schools and principals at increasing scale.”
Also: “By 2014, a critical mass of schools in most of our current partner cities--and a critical mass of principal vacancies--will be filled by high-quality New Leaders principals selected and trained by New Leaders with the knowledge, skills, beliefs, and frameworks needed to ensure 90-100% student success rates in their schools.”
Billionaire Eli Broad’s 990’s reveal that he gave NLFNS a total of $7,994,000 in the years 2001 through 2007. His early contributions were identified for use as start-up and first year implementation. He donated $1,056,000 in 2001, $1,218,000 in 2002, $2,250,000 in 2003, $2,000,000 in 2004, $720,000 in 2005, $375,000 in 2006, and $375,000 in 2007.
Lynda Tredway, of UC Berkeley’s Principal Leadership Institute, reported to me that half of the program's curriculum is designed by NLFNS, and the other half is from the administrative training program at
Cal State East . Bay
Potential applicants are tempted away from traditional, academic-based principal training programs, like the one at UC Berkeley, because they can't offer the advantages that NLFNS can. For instance, the NLFNS program does not charge tuition. Participants also receive a salary and an automatic administrative residency position (paid for by both OUSD and NLFNS) while they undergo their training. Undoubtedly, the benefits underwritten by the philanthropic funding which NLFNS receives work to entice people into the program, and to create an uneven playing field.
The overwhelming destinations for those who have graduated from the NLFNS Bay Area training program are both the charter and non-charter schools of OUSD. Of the 45 graduates listed in the Winter 2008 issue of the NLFNS Bay Area Community Newsletter, 32 are in the traditional and small schools of OUSD, 10 are at OUSD charter schools, and 13 are at other Bay Area and
, primarily charters. Central Valley schools
One point to consider is that for the past several years, NLFNS graduates have been given special, automatic preference and access to leadership positions in OUSD schools by special arrangements made between NLFNS and the Broad-trained state administrators. So the program provides OUSD with candidates for principal positions while blocking good potential candidates from other programs at the same time.
Eli Broad (rhymes with toad) is a 76 year-old accountant by training, and a businessman by experience. He made his initial fortune in real estate and homebuilding (KB Home), then went on to become the founder and CEO of SunAmerica, a subsidiary of AIG (American International Group).*
Broad has no personal experience or training in the field of public education, or in the management of urban public schools or school districts. His massive wealth $6.7 billion (48th richest American) has permitted him to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on education reform projects which he personally launches, including alternative training programs such as NLFNS. His base of operations is the Broad Education Foundation, an organization which is working toward “transforming urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations and competition."
*This is an insurance corporation heavily involved with the recent financial collapse, and recently listed as eighth of 655 on a list of bad-faith insurers.
Reform, reform, reform.
Here’s what John Thompson has to say.
Hopefully, Arne Duncan will listen closely to John Easton, Charles Payne, and others who have studied reform efforts in
(and elsewhere). Payne calls for "Standards of Implementation" or guidelines for minimum prerequisites required for reforms to be successful. Just as teachers tend to be isolated from each other, "reformers are isolated - by ideology, attitude, ... and tribalisms." Just as teachers need learning "Standards," reformers need Standards or a guide as to whether a minimum amount of professional development, follow-up support, on-going assessment, and capacity for addressing disengagement are available. To borrow Payne's analysis of a previous systemic reform, "one need not spend a decade and $130 million dollars to find out that one doesn't have a theory of action connected to the real world." Chicago
In 1971, Seymour Sarason explained the failure of reformers to understand schools as social organizations and their cultures. For another 15 years, he kept a file of letters from people who led failed reform efforts and learned "that reformers ‘had vastly underestimated the force of existing power relationships and had vastly overestimated the willingness of school personnel to confront the implication of those relationships.’"
And above all, "when people who have led a reform effort are asked what they would do differently," writes Payne, "perhaps the single most common answer is "take more time.”
That sensible advice has arrived here too late to be of any help.