wasting bandwidth since 1999

The Leadership Squash

Thanks to @science_goddess for pointing me to this NPR piece on The Myth of the Superstar Superintendent in which they report on a study showing no correlation between student achievement and who is leading their school district.

However, I think their conclusion is far too simple. It’s foolish to say that the leaders of a school system don’t matter. As in any other field, it all depends on their leadership style.

“A good superintendent empowers leading visionary principals and teacher leaders at the school,” she [education writer and author Dana Goldstein] says. But what actually happens too often is that superintendents “squash interesting ideas, so you’d have principals afraid to try something new, afraid to try something innovative.”

Unfortunately, with the many layers of super-level leadership we have here in the overly-large school district, there’s a lot of that squashing going on.

1 Comment

  1. Dave

    I very much agree with your skepticism on this.

    My concern is that changes implemented by superintendents take more time to show effects, and the effects are unpredictable.

    For example, if a superintendent makes a couple weak hires for their cabinet during their term, those weak hires may hire weak principals during the next 5 years. Then those weak principals may hire weak teachers during the next 5 years after that.

    In that case, the effects would be gradual, not peaking until a decade later and would mostly be reflected in areas that experience turnover. (So it would be dismiss-able as caused by turnover, rather than caused by poor hiring.)

    Or, if a leader champions a weak technology program, the effects may never be reflected in measures of the students, schools, and district, because everything will be judged against a weak comparison. The failure won’t be seen until the students get out in the world and start failing at technology tasks in post-secondary or in their career.

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