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School & District Management Opinion

Breaking News: “Leading Educators” in the Big Easy

By Rick Hess — September 14, 2010 2 min read
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Word on the street is that a cool new venture is rising in New Orleans, which is well on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of American education (see its top finish in my recent study of America’s Best & Worst Cities for School Reform). The newest effort involves taking the Big Easy’s “Leading Educators” program national. To take the reins, they’ve recruited Jonas Chartock, executive director of the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, my fellow NACSA board member, former executive director of TFA Houston, and all-around good guy.

Leading Educators is intended to address the problem of high-energy, entrepreneurial teachers who tend to leave teaching after two to four years. That exit is creating a headache for organizations, like New Leaders for New Schools, which have trouble finding as many great candidates as they’re seeking. The goal is for Leading Educators to create a competitive program to identify promising candidates in their third through eighth years, and then provide high-powered support to keep them in the schools and help them develop professionally--with an eye to preparing them for leadership roles.

Focusing on the “middle years” of teaching, the initiative will partner with reform-minded school districts and charter management organizations. The model focuses on professional development by taking participants to visit great schools across the nation, exposing them to pioneering leaders and reformers, and linking them with mentors and coaches.

Word is that the effort has backing from NewSchools Venture Fund and has looped in New Leaders for New Schools as an official partner, and they’re presumably hoping to partner with TFA and The New Teacher Project. As I understand it, Chartock will be heading down to New Orleans later this year, and the outfit will be looking to expand the model to one more Louisiana site and one non-Louisiana site for fall 2011.

This strikes me as a really promising development. What we’re seeing here--when considered along with other dynamic greenfield providers like TeachPlus, High Tech High Ed School, REEP in Houston, and Teacher U--is the emergence of a budding new infrastructure of talent recruitment, training, and development. Some of these are trying to repurpose the conventions of ed schools and the established order, while others (like Leading Educators) are building a new infrastructure for selecting and cultivating talent. Especially attractive is the tendency to get beyond just building new boxes (i.e. schools), and to instead use new tools and models to deepen and cultivate the talent pipeline. For reasons I explain at length in Education Unbound, I think that’s a smart, savvy way to bet.

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