Most people know about Teach for America (TFA), but who are New Leaders (NL)?
New Leaders is to principals what Teach for America is to teachers.
Jonathan (Jon) Schnur is the main creator of NL. Like TFA’s Wendy Kopp, Schnur has no education degree. He never was a teacher or a principal.
A 2004 braggadocio TIME piece about him states that he mentored kindergartners when he was in third grade.
Below I tell you about the other co-founders of New Leaders. I think you will find it interesting.
Schnur originally worked as President Clinton’s Whitehouse associate director for educational policy. He developed policy concerning teacher and principal quality by working on issues like after-school programs, school district reform, charter schools, and preschools.
How did someone with no education degree or experience working in public schools, or with children (minus the third grade stuff), get such a prominent job? It’s a mystery to me.
Schnur also worked as a campaign advisor to President Barack Obama and played a critical role in writing the President’s school stimulus plan—Race to the Top. Some thought he might be education secretary.
How do teachers and principals feel when someone with no educational background or experience writes the policies that will affect their schools?
Schnur has given lectures at Harvard and other uppity places. At Harvard he is lauded for dropping out and becoming a social entrepreneur—like Bill Gates! HERE it is!
He stepped down from NL and now has a group called America Achieves, although I think many would say America Achieves less with pseudo-principals running America’s schools.
Let’s be honest.
Every school needs an outstanding principal—an individual who supports and listens to parents and teachers, who will provide constructive criticism, act as a mediator when necessary, and who sincerely enjoys the children or teens in their care.
Ask any teacher what is an important factor about teaching and they will tell you—it’s the principal. A good principal can make the difference in how a teacher is able to function.
A good principal cares about the welfare of the students and understands that children are more than test scores. Professional preparation makes all the difference.
New Leaders started out as New Leaders for New Schools but they shortened their name. I think a lot of people still don’t know who they are.
Often, TFA recruits move on to New Leaders and become principals. Or, NL encourages those from outside careers to come over to education and try out school leadership.
In 2004, on Boston NPR, Schnur likened turning around a failed school to leading an Army unit into Iraq. He was encouraging military colonels to become principals.
School districts get millions of dollars to bring in New Leader candidates instead of looking to universities for well-prepared educators.
The NL principal residents receive salaries and are considered a part of the school administration as assistant principals, or even principals. So tax dollars go to NL too.
They are about pushing school reform—testing and data. They push out from principal positions real teachers and well-prepared professionals who study administration.
The implication with NL is that alternatively trained individuals will be principals in a way no degreed, administratively prepared and experienced principal could ever do.
There is absolutely no peer-reviewed authentic research to show this is true.
Here is what happened to other New Leaders co-founders.
Allison Gaines Pell. Allison got her degree from Brown and an education degree from Harvard. You could say she has the best pedigree, but she jumped too quickly to a principal position through New York’s New Leader-like, Leadership Academy and is now principal of a charter school founded by Blue Man Group (you can’t make this stuff up). They are expanding too!
Correction. I have been informed that the school known as Blue School is actually a private school. The link above claims the middle school is a charter school but that must be incorrect. The Blue School has a Board of Directors including Sir Ken Robinson. Here is their website. While the school had controversy in the past, it sounds like Allison Gaines Pell helped to put the school back on track.
Mike Johnston. Mike came from Teach for America. Mike is now a state legislator in the Colorado Senate. He passes major legislation on education reform, economic development, immigration reform and criminal justice reform.
Before entering the Senate, he was a high school principal for six years. He wrote a dramatic book about his experience in Teach for America called In the Deep Heart’s Core (his degree is in philosophy).
Apparently his heart isn’t really with the teachers of Colorado because he has been on board for judging teachers based on high-stakes testing. Considering where he comes from that is pretty outrageous. Diane Ravitch has written a lot about him. HERE. HERE and HERE.
Mike also served as a senior education advisor to President Obama—because 5 weeks of TFA training, I guess to them, is comparable to Jon Schnur’s third grade mentoring experience.
Cole, Wendy. “A Guy Who Loves Going to the Principal’s Office. TIME. December 17, 2004.