No leader left behind

The former president who gave us the No Testing Opportunity Left Behind Act is now lending his name to another education initiative, this one allegedly designed to improve the crop of principals heading our public schools.

Former First Lady Laura Bush unveiled the program yesterday in Dallas. The Alliance to Reform Educational Leadership, as it is being called, will receive initial funding of $1 million from AT&T. It will be the first largescale policy initiative of the George W. Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University and will involve educators, nonprofits and businesses in an effort to train half the country’s public school principals over the next 10 years.

That’s an ambitious and potentially scary prospect, given the track record of Bush’s landmark educational product as president.

Initial participants include the Dallas, Plano and Fort Worth ISDs and school districts in Denver, St. Louis and Indianapolis as well as SMU and the University of Texas at Dallas. Nonprofit collaborators include Teach for America, KIPP, New Leaders for New Schools, the Rainwater Leadership Alliance and the Council for Education Change.

Apparently, public school teachers will be eligible to participate. I certainly hope so. But, according to The Dallas Morning News, the program is to develop a fast track into principals’ offices for experienced or promising leaders – including business executives and retired military personnel – who don’t have training as educators.

In other words, let’s see if some noneducator administrators – after some classroom and onthejob training – can do what educators and the No Child Left Behind Act have been unable to do – whip struggling public schools into shape. That seems to be the theory.

I am sure there are some capable administrators out there who can make the transition to a successful and productive educational career. And, there are others who will be miserable failures, taking jobs from career educators who, I fear, will be cast aside for being perceived (unfairly) as part of the problem.

This is strictly hypothetical, but I can easily imagine a retired military officer running a tight ship at his new high school – until the first kids show up for class. One of the worst teachers I ever had during my entire formal education was a retired military officer and newspaper executive (topnotch in both professions) who was a total flop as a college journalism teacher. But, then, he didn’t have the benefit of this upcoming Bush program, did he?

Like everyone else, I will have to wait and see how this initiative plays out. Meanwhile, I will be dubious.


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