Who are New Leaders for New Schools?
Education bloggers wrote fervently this weekend about the suspension of four principals in Newark, New Jersey who spoke out against the “One Newark” plan to reform schools http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/12/18/one-newark-reform-plan-proves-divisive-even-before-official-release/. The plan is similar to what is happening in cities across the country other than the fact that they have Mark Zuckerberg money to help them along in the process.
As an aside, what is interesting is that with all the repetitive talk about Governor Christie’s woes—bridge closings and mayoral bullying—the principal suspensions were untouched by the mainstream media. If anyone heard about them on the nightly news let me know.
New Jersey Superintendent Cami Anderson suspended four principals who apparently went too far questioning her Newark school plan. It appears that if you don’t like school reform in New Jersey, and you question why your school has insurmountable problems, you can kiss your jobs good-bye. About Superintendent Cami Anderson…
The suspended principals who courageously spoke out against what is happening in their schools were Tony Motley of Bragraw Avenue School, Grady James of Hawthorne Avenue School, Dorothy Handfield of Belmont-Runyon, and Deneen Washington of Maple Avenue.
The suspensions were written about by Jersey Jazzman here http://jerseyjazzman.blogspot.com/2014/01/newark-state-superintendent-cami.html
And Anthony Cody wrote about them here http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/2014/01/newark_principals_speak_out_ge.html?cmp=SOC-SHR-FB.
I am writing about the organization that Superintendent Cami Anderson helped run for a while called New Leaders for New Schools. New Leaders has a prominent presence in the world of “get er done” reform otherwise known as shuttering traditional public schools and re-opening them as charters—and replacing real teachers with TFA etcetera.
NLNS was the brainchild of Jonathan Schnur who worked as an education policy analyst under President Bill Clinton. Why he had such an important position with so little education background is anyone’s guess. Ben Fenton from McKinsey & Co.; Mike Johnston, from Teach for America; Allison Gaines, a past New York City public school teacher; and Monique Burns, a charter schools expert, also take credit for their part in the formation of New Leaders.
It is obvious that Schnur created NLNS to replace the principalship in America. One gets the feeling he woke up one day and said, “What do you know? I can do for principals what Wendy Kupp does for teachers!” NLNS was born.
The same message used to promote TFA was also used for NLNS—we are warned of an impending serious shortage of principals. But in reality, could you not have found, and still find, a glut of real teachers clamoring to climb the ladder to be principals?
While Teach for America works to replace teachers with those who move in strange paths towards education stardom, NLNS focuses on administrators, especially principals. The program, as the darling of the corporate reformists, has garnered positive recognition from Fast Company magazine, WestEd, Harvard’s Business School, Ed. Week, the US Department of Education, and various school districts and others.
And don’t get your knickers in a knot about Schnur being from the Clinton administration. NLNS continued to thrive above and beyond in the President G.W. Bush Administration. Like everything else with school reform—it’s non-partisan.
Schnur also worked with the Obama administration and was considered for Arne Duncan’s job. Schnur is now the executive chairman of America Achieves which is certainly worth checking out here http://www.americaachieves.org/our-team/jon-schnur.
My favorite of the NLNS featured resources (videos) in the program include:
- Earning Credibility When You Lack Experience
- Observation and Feedback Practices to Support New Teachers and Instructional Rigor
- Leading the Implementation of the Common Core State Standards
As I said, NLNS is heavily promoted by corporate reformers. They stress that the old public schools are “dropout factories” a claim that has been disproven by the Economic Policy Institute http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_viewpoints_dropout_crisis/.
Cities buy into New Leaders and place the candidates into asst. principal positions, once reserved for teachers who desired to eventually move into a principal role.
When NLNS speaks about “breakthrough gains” you can be sure it is about high-stakes testing and thoroughly data-driven. They are big with flow charts and their website is cold—not child friendly.
Their EPIC Knowledge System is all about “Learning and Teaching, Assessment and Data, Aligned Staff, Culture, Operations and Systems and Personal Leadership.” I can’t find anything about special education, child development, individualization and or individual academic and psycho-social needs, etcetera…. http://epic.newleaders.org/about/epic-knowledge-system/.
The NLNS listed employee values include communication, feedback and cooperation—even risk taking. I’d question this. I don’t think these values apply in reality, or the principals in New Jersey wouldn’t be wondering if they will get their jobs back tomorrow.
Here is their New Leader’s website http://www.newleaders.org/.