Looking for Mr. or Ms. Change Agent
Over at the Fordham, Mike Petrilli has been slowly unspooling a series of posts looking at how reform goals might be pursued through means other than policy and politics. In his latest, he considers the leadership development approach to school reform.
Petrilli expresses mixed feelings about the argument. On the one hand, he recognizes that great leaders have value. On the other hand, he's not sure that leaders can make a difference in the vast dry dead desert of public schools, and wouldn't we all be better off just putting our energy into helping leaders grow in the lush gardens that are charter schools?
As always, Petrilli has part of a point. Superintendents and principals are fighting an uphill battle these days, though it's certainly worth noting that many of the obstacles were created by reformsters like Petrilli, hamstringing schools with the crappy Common Core State [sic] Standards and bad-test-based accountability. The last decade-plus of ed reform have sidled school leaders with truckloads of crap and foisted on them priorities like "get student test scores up or get fired." So yes-- there are "government" policies in place that subject principals to "the dysfunction of the larger system within which they must work, and the Gordian knot that’s been tied by decades of contradictory, often compromising, laws and regulation"-- and that big mess has been largely grown and built with the assistance of guys like Petrilli, criss-crossing the country to advocate for those same government regulations.
Petrilli also throws shade at "unruly elected school boards," and I wonder once again why reformsters love the rugged chaos of parents choosing their own schools, but hate the rugged chaos of voters choosing their own school board. Choice is good except when it's terrible.
Petrilli nods to Rick Hess's cage-busting while rightly acknowledging that the cages are real and