March 08, 2009
Decisive Leadership in Seattle

Yes, an almost unheard of combination in that title.

Nonetheless, today's Seattle Times profile of Seattle Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson is well worth the read.

The job of urban school superintendent is one of the most demanding in the country given the complex political environments coupled with often distinctly challenging education issues. Yet, Goodloe-Johnson appears off to a solid start - even with the necessary ruffling of feathers in "shouldn't we have another meeting about that so we can all feel better about it" Seattle.

In particular I note this:

For Goodloe-Johnson, the key instead is a strong central office that sets goals and holds everyone accountable for reaching them.

Her plan -- still in the early stages -- calls for setting specific, annual targets for the district as a whole and for each school, in test scores, graduation rates and other areas.

And when schools fall short of their goals, she says the district will step in sooner than it has in the past.

A very good case can be made for making individual schools more autonomous, indeed it's part of the Washington Policy Center's recent education plan. Yet, in order for schools to succeed in such circumstances, the culture of the school system itself has to properly support and encourage accountability, effective practices, non-status quo thinking, etc.

Seattle, like many school districts - and especially urban ones - is not at that point yet. For now, the district itself has to do a better job of creating that culture at the school building level and then stepping in to remedy matters in a timely fashion when individual school buildings don't pass muster.

Only once that time intensive process of changing the institutional culture of the school system succeeds can the circumstances be right for greater school building level control.

Either way, read the whole profile.

Posted by Eric Earling at March 08, 2009 10:10 PM | Email This
1. "Distinctly Challenging Issues." Nice PC way of saying, "The Quixotic quest to make blacks and Mexicans do as well as whites and Orientals and Indians."

Posted by: Tomas de Torquemada on March 9, 2009 11:46 AM
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