Leaders Weigh in on Leading
What a way to mark 20 years!
Teaching Matters celebrated its 20th anniversary at our annual Champions of Education and Innovation luncheon on October 29th with none other than New York City’s education Chancellor, Carmen Fariña, whose remarks were picked up by the press. She lauded the previous Administration for wanting “better teachers, better schools, and better success [as well as] excellence in leadership, ” while also stressing that she intends to pursue expanded supports for school personnel.
About 150 attendees gathered at the Harvard Club to hear the Chancellor talk about leadership with luncheon honoree Jody Spiro, head of Education Leadership initiatives for the Wallace Foundation, which has invested about $400 million for the cause nation-wide over a bit more than a decade. The group included donors, policy-makers, DOE representatives, elected officials, non-profit leaders, and other friends of Teaching Matters.
Jane Williams, host of a Bloomberg radio show devoted entirely to education issues, was the moderator. Teaching Matters’ Executive Director Lynette Guastaferro and Board Chair Olga Votis kicked off the event.
During the two-hour lunch, guests were challenged to think about the central role of principals in improving the educational performance of teachers, and through them, students. “There is this myth of the hero teacher, and it’s counter to research,” said Guastaferro. She said the schools with the greatest positive impact on students’ success were those where a common vision and collaboration were in place. Those schools, lead by strong principals, offered consecutive years of quality teaching for their students. She stressed that principals in urban schools are “teachers to teachers,” with a multiplier effect because of that role.
Ms. Spiro praised New York and the Chancellor for relying on research when introducing new leadership programs. She also affirmed the importance of teaching experience for the most effective principals.
A key point made several times by several speakers during the afternoon: while accountability and measurement are important ways of improving academic results, improvement hinges at least as much on well-designed, effective support for administrators and teachers. After noting the apparent contrast between the last administration’s devotion to measurement and its significant gains in student performance (still leaving much room for improvement), versus the current administration’s focus on training and professional development, Ms. Votis summed it up this way: “It’s not a dichotomy.” She also mentioned the beneficial effects of support and collaboration, rather than fear. Making reference to her words, the Chancellor said: “I believe in accountability. I think what Olga said about accountability is crucial.”
Our celebration of two decades serving urban students continues throughout the year.