Another major foundation has been in the background, however, garnering little press but influencing policy more than many think: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Their stated mission is to "drastically transform urban K-12 public education through better governance, management, labor relations, and competition." A noble goal, to be sure, but it is important to identify how it is implemented to really understand their influence.
One of their main projects is the Broad Superintendent Academy, a program devoted to focusing people's energies on the business side of education. This Academy has supported and influenced numerous individuals who have become leaders across the country (a list can be found on this website). Philadelphia just ousted one of the graduates from its school system (Dr. Arlene Ackerman) and just hired one (Dr. William Hite). The Academy prides itself on being a disruptive influence in education systems and promotes turnaround schools in which staffs are completely (or mostly) reconstituted, or for a school to be turned over to a charter manager. And now it plans to expand its influence.
The reason I bring this up is not to say that all Broad Academy superintendents are going to destroy school systems. My main focus here is to question the impetus of this organization - that business and competition are more useful to transform the education system than knowledge of how kids and schools work. Writing this blog over the past year and a half has made me think about how to positively influence schools on a larger scale and leadership is the key.
I think business savvy is important to have. Knowledge of budgeting, influencing people, managing - these are all important. But without some knowledge of what it's like in the classroom, these people are forgetting what their end goals are. For all the visits a superintendent can have to classrooms, they do not really know what it is like right now to be in front of 30+ students at a time. I do not know what the true solution will be. All I can advocate is for people who are in the classroom to stick it out and find opportunities to influence their Districts in positive ways. And if you want to gain leadership skills at the same time, please don't forget what you are doing that for: the kids.