Lack of Teaching Experience a Liability for School Leaders

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To the Editor:

It is hard to understand how anyone who has never taught in a public school can be expected to provide credible leadership in these troubled times for education ("Best Minds Sought for Central Office, Startups," Feb. 2, 2009). The wherewithal that served candidates well when they were in management, law, and public policy does not necessarily transfer to administrative positions in schools. In fact, it can act as a liability.

Long before the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation's residency in urban education began, school districts looked to the military for talent to fill top education posts. But the experience has been disappointing. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, learned that lesson when it forced David L. Brewer, a retired Navy admiral, to resign as superintendent recently.

The reason for this misguided policy is that the culture of schools is based on cooperation—not on competition and orders. That's why strategies superimposed on teachers almost always backfire. Nevertheless, we persist in the comforting delusion that we can prepare candidates by placing them in residency programs purporting to substitute for teaching experience.

Walt Gardner
Los Angeles, Calif.

Vol. 28, Issue 22, Page 35

Published in Print: February 25, 2009, as Lack of Teaching Experience A Liability for School Leaders
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