A new class of 10 innovators in public education are completing The Broad Academy, the nation’s most prominent leadership-development program for urban school-system superintendents.
The Broad Academy prepares passionate, proven leaders to transform America’s urban school systems so every student receives a world-class education. In 2012, the program was revamped, expanding its scope, doubling in length to two years and placing greater emphasis on leadership development and helping urban system leaders grow high-performing organizations focused on the twin goals of excellence and equity for all students.
“The role of an urban school-system leader is unquestionably one of the most difficult jobs in America. These 10 Fellows are clear leaders in their field. But equally important, they each possess a relentless drive for social justice and fundamental belief in what is possible when school systems are organized to educate all students to high levels,” said Christina Heitz, managing director of The Broad Academy, a program of The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems.
The second Academy cohort to go through the new program is comprised of 10 proven leaders from across the country who are driven to improve the learning outcomes and life opportunities of the students they serve:
- Tommy Chang’s longtime experience as a teacher and principal informed his belief that improvement must be driven at the school level, not the central office. Under his leadership, the Intensive Support and Innovation Center of Los Angeles Unified School District provided tailored coaching and professional development to the staffs at the low-performing schools it oversees, giving each school the autonomy to employ turnaround strategies that addressed their unique needs. As a result, attendance increased, suspensions decreased and, most importantly, student achievement and graduation rates at the 135 ISIC schools are at all-time highs. In fact, ISIC’s graduation rate improved by 15 percentage points in just two years.
- Focusing on leadership, autonomy, accountability and support, Veronica Conforme, chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan is working to enhance the student experience in EAA schools by ensuring they have a safe, secure, nurturing learning environment focused on improving academic achievement. Through a restructuring of school district operations and development of clear expectations frameworks and customized support structures for schools and educators, school leaders now have the ability to operate autonomously — controlling most of their funds and managing staff professional development in ways that best meet the needs of their teachers and students.
- Barbara Deane-Williams knows that educators flourish where they have room to make decisions that are in the best interests of students. That is why, as superintendent of Greece (N.Y.) Central School District, she has focused on strengthening teacher and leader effectiveness through initiatives designed to foster a culture of innovation and trust, supporting teachers to “own” professional development and strategic instructional design to best meet the needs of their students. This kind of flexible, responsive environment for students and teachers has been well received and helped produce significant gains in the district’s graduation rates, particularly among students of color.
- As the chief operating officer of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, Michael Gaal has been instrumental not just in creating efficiencies that drive more resources to the classroom, but also in boosting career advancement and professional growth opportunities for the system’s educators. Through the creation of the EAA’s Achievement Leadership Institute, Gaal is helping develop a homegrown pipeline of skilled school leaders. In addition, he has led the reimagining of teacher and principal evaluations to provide more robust feedback and personalized supports to educators so they can get ever better at driving learning for all students in their care.
- Mastery Charter Schools CEO Scott Gordon has set out to prove that students in our nation’s lowest-performing schools can succeed at the highest levels and that it is possible to provide a thoughtful, engaging, rigorous public-school education for all children. Recognized as a national model for successfully turning around some of Philadelphia’s most troubled schools, Mastery has fundamentally redesigned its approach to “no excuses”: creating a new school model aligned to Common Core standards, designed to develop students’ independence and critical-thinking skills — all in a supportive environment in which Mastery can make addressing the racial and economic context of educational injustice central to its work.
- Improving a low-performing school system in deep financial crisis is no easy task. Paul Kihn, deputy superintendent of The School District of Philadelphia, has focused on stabilizing the system while creating the infrastructure and high-quality execution needed to deepen expertise for serving historically underserved communities. Under his leadership, the district is fundamentally shifting the way it engages with and supports students, educators and the public to ensure no student slips through the cracks — including the implementation of restorative practices to improve school climate and the launch of a city-wide school redesign initiative to give educators and community leaders the opportunity to reimagine their local schools to best address their unique contexts.
- Being both a mom and a lifelong champion for equity and community empowerment, former Georgia state representative Alisha Thomas Morgan understands the importance of parent voice in efforts to ensure all students can access a world-class education. Throughout her decade-plus in public service and advocacy, she has challenged traditional thinking on education, successfully working on both sides of the political aisle to increase parental choice within public school systems, expand the number of high-quality school options statewide, keep Georgia’s best and brightest teachers in the classroom and provide better measures of effectiveness and stronger professional supports for teachers and principals throughout the state.
- Evan Rudall knows firsthand the importance of strong curriculum to engage and inspire learning. To help democratize access to an excellent education, Rudall — a former teacher, principal and CEO of Uncommon Schools, one of the nation’s top-performing urban public charter networks — co-founded Zearn, a non-profit digital learning organization focused on instilling the academic skills, love of learning and confidence students need to be successful. Zearn’s rigorous, joyful and interactive digital lessons personalize instruction in class and at home through Common Core-aligned elementary-level daily math lessons. During Zearn’s pilot year, Rudall and his team partnered with hundreds of teachers to drive meaningful teaching and learning for thousands of students.
- With a vision to become the first public school system in which the majority of low-income students who enroll in college ultimately earn degrees, KIPP Bay Area Schools — under the leadership of CEO Beth Sutkus Thompson — has focused relentlessly on meeting the academic and social-emotional needs of their students. Currently, more than 75 percent of graduating seniors pass at least one Advanced Placement exam and go to college at nearly double the rate of their peers nationwide. Thompson’s strategic plan pushes KIPP Bay Area to get both bigger and even better: quadrupling in size over the next decade while providing the supports needed for all of their KIPPsters to succeed beyond high school.
- Balancing tried-and-true practice with creative problem-solving, Alyssa Whitehead-Bust, Denver Public Schools’ chief academic and innovation officer, simultaneously supports innovation and best-practice implementation within the portfolio context of the nation’s fastest growing school district. Her team’s “imaginarium” creates opportunities for educators and stakeholders throughout the system to help generate creative solutions to pressing challenges. At the same time, she ensures school-based educators receive relevant, high-quality supports, services and professional learning aligned to standards. These efforts have helped the district cut its dropout rate in half and increase on-time graduation by 20 percentage points.
For more information about The Broad Academy or The Broad Center, visit www.broadcenter.org.