Five New State Officials Join ‘Chiefs for Change’

By Sean Cavanagh — April 19, 2011 1 min read
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Five more state schools chiefs have signed on to an effort, supported by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, aimed at promoting new approaches to evaluating teachers, improving standards and testing, and overall academic innovation.

The project, dubbed “Chiefs for Change,” was announced last year at a summit on school issues organized by Bush. It originally drew five state schools superintendents as participants. The new members of the coalition, announced today, are all new to the state superintendent’s job: Janet Barresi of Oklahoma, Stephen Bowen of Maine, Kevin Huffman of Tennessee, Chris Cerf of New Jersey, and Hanna Skandera of New Mexico (a former education aide to Bush in Florida).

Bush, who has emerged as an influential figure among Republicans for his work on education issues, has said that one of his school-focused foundations will support the group financially.

The group has billed itself as a bipartisan coalition focused on issues such as creating “value-added” evaluations for teachers and principals, stronger standards and testing, and expanded school choice. When the group was formed last year, its members emphasized that they do not expect to be in sync on all of those issues—such as on school choice, a topic on which some of them would favor charter schools and virtual education, but not necessarily vouchers to use public funds to allow students to attend private schools.

In a statement announcing the addition of the five new participants, the schools chiefs said they would also seek to “present a unified voice on federal education policy,” including the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The original five members of Chiefs for Change are Tony Bennett of Indiana, Deborah A. Gist of Rhode Island, Paul Pastorek of Louisiana, Gerard Robinson of Virginia, and Eric J. Smith of Florida, who has since announced that he intends to leave his state post.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.