November 18, 2010

Who Is Best Qualified to Run a School System?

By By Andrew J. Rotherham

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What kind of credentials do you need to run a school district? Especially a really big one? Is a degree in education a better predictor of a superintendent’s success than, say, a track record of turning around distressed companies? These are hot questions in the education world right now. Last week, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg surprised everyone (and that includes the senior leaders of his city’s school system) by tapping publishing executive Cathleen Black to be the city’s new school chancellor. By doing so, Bloomberg set in motion an arcane deliberation process. Because Black has not spent three years working in public schools — in fact, her only education leadership experience consists of serving on an advisory board for a charter school in Harlem — and because she also lacks the requisite 60 hours of graduate-school credits, she will need a waiver from the state in order to take charge of the city’s 1,700 schools, 80,000 teachers and more than a million students.

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