School & District Management

Study to Profile Secrets of 15 Urban Leaders’ Success

By Mark Stricherz — November 14, 2001 2 min read
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A new study will profile 15 successful urban superintendents, examining how they seek to raise student achievement and overcome urban woes.

The American Association of School Administrators, a membership organization based in Arlington, Va., has named 11 superintendents for the study and plans to add four more. They will serve as examples for the two-year, $1.2 million study, much of which will deal with student learning.

“We know that outstanding superintendents are able to anticipate, to communicate, and to bring communities together,” Paul D. Houston, the executive director of the association, said in a statement announcing the choices.

How urban superintendents spend their time and whether they have improved achievement will be among the questions posed, said Sharon Adams-Taylor, the director of members’ networks and child initiatives for the association.

The study will also look at how the district chiefs deal with budget crunches, large numbers of needy students, and clashes with school boards, AASA spokeswoman Barbara Knisely said.

The study is being conducted in the hope of influencing how urban school leaders are trained and recruited. Once wrapped up, Ms. Taylor said, the case studies will be given to school boards and state education agencies.

Schools Chiefs Tapped

Carol Johnson, the superintendent of the 49,300-student Minneapolis public schools, isn’t slated to meet with the project’s researchers until at least February. But she said she plans to tell them about her wide-ranging programs. Among those efforts are forging partnerships with local businesses, expanding the use of data for schools, and targeting poor and minority students for improved achievement.

Ms. Johnson added: “This is my fifth year on the job, and the average tenure of urban superintendents has been less than three years.”

The Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund is paying for the study, which the Cosmos Corp. of Bethesda, Md., will conduct. The urban superintendents to be studied were nominated by researchers, national and state association representatives, and fellow urban schools chiefs.

Besides Ms. Johnson, the superintendents chosen so far are: Alan D. Bersin of San Diego; Barbara Byrd-Bennett of Cleveland; Carl Cohn of Long Beach, Calif.; Beverly Hall of Atlanta; Clifford Janney of Rochester, N.Y.; Diana Lam of Providence, R.I.; Joseph Olchefske of Seattle; Thomas W. Payzant of Boston; Eric Smith of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; and Carrol Thomas Jr. of Beaumont, Texas.

A version of this article appeared in the November 14, 2001 edition of Education Week as Study to Profile Secrets of 15 Urban Leaders’ Success

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