As NPEAT's Focus Shifts, Its Director Resigns
An ambitious, federally financed partnership aimed at improving knowledge about teaching will undergo a change in leadership.
Willis D. Hawley, the executive director of the National Partnership for Excellence and Accountability in Teaching, announced his resignation last week.
Mr. Hawley, a professor at the University of Maryland College Park, will stay on while the partnership, known as NPEAT, looks for a replacement. The search is expected to take three to four months.
In the future, Mr. Hawley will advise NPEAT on its many research projects and may work as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education's office of educational research and improvement, which is underwriting the five-year, $23 million project.
Created in 1997, NPEAT brings together education researchers and a large number of "partner organizations" with the goal of bridging the gap between policy and practice on teaching. At one time, its agenda included 39 separate research projects.
But under pressure from both the OERI and the partner organizations, NPEAT has overhauled its structure and priorities in the past year. The number of research projects has been cut back and the existing work reorganized, the partner organizations have been integrated more fully into the research work, and a new effort to disseminate knowledge immediately has been launched. ("Teaching Partnership Regroups To Define Mission and Survive," Feb. 3, 1999.)
Editorial Projects in Education Inc., the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week and Teacher Magazine, is one of NPEAT's partner organizations. Mr. Hawley also serves on the board of trustees of Editorial Projects in Education.
Given the reorganization, Mr. Hawley said last week, his job had changed substantially. The executive director now has a bigger management job and must build a communications network among NPEAT's partner organizations.
"A lot of the tasks, which are a part of the job of executive director under the new strategies we're undertaking, involve tasks that I think probably would be done better by somebody else," Mr. Hawley said. "This is my decision."
Kent McGuire, the Education Department's assistant secretary for educational research and improvement, commended Mr. Hawley for being astute enough to realize "when the nature of the role shifts so much that somebody else ought to play it."
The assistant secretary shook things up last fall by raising the possibility of terminating NPEAT's contract with his agency, which must be renewed each year, if it couldn't focus and provide more timely guidance on teaching issues for policymakers.
Now, he said, "I feel better than I did in October, but I don't feel great."
Mr. McGuire said he told board members last week that they needn't worry about a waning of the department's "interest and enthusiasm" for the project. Still, he said, "I'm not about to relax about all of this and assume that the solution is just changing executive directors."
Mary Hatwood Futrell, the dean of the graduate school of education and human development at George Washington University, said in a statement that NPEAT's executive committee had accepted Mr. Hawley's resignation "with deep regret."
"Bill has given exceptional leadership in the formulation of NPEAT and in establishing this unique and important venture," said Ms. Futrell, the chairwoman of the NPEAT policy board.
The members of a search committee have not determined the specific job description or qualifications for a new executive director, said Don Cameron, the executive director of the National Education Association and a member of both NPEAT's executive committee and the search committee.
"It is in [Mr. Hawley's] best interest and the interest of the organization for him to utilize his talents in another capacity with NPEAT," he said of the outgoing director's resignation.
In a recent report to the partnership's policy board, Mr. Hawley reviewed the many changes that have taken place since last June, when NPEAT's partners pressed for a greater role in policymaking than they were to have had under the initial contract.
Since that time, he wrote, research projects have been "downsized" and focused, the partnership is working on providing policy guidance on professional development and teacher recruitment and induction, and the partner organizations have been integrated more fully into the research activity.
NPEAT also has a World Wide Web site, www.npeat.org, and has agreed to work with one of the federal regional laboratories to create an online prototype of "best practices" in teaching.
Those sorts of initiatives, Mr. Hawley wrote, are in line with recent calls for education research to become more relevant to both policy and practice.
"NPEAT remains a concept in the process of becoming," he wrote, "and it will no doubt continue to redefine and refine its operational strategies. But it does seem clear that the NPEAT experiment is an idea whose time has come."
Vol. 18, Issue 40, Page 7