Education Week - January 28, 2015 - (Page 18)

goVERnMEnT & polITIcS As Job Description Grows, So Does Churn for State Chiefs Average tenure drops by half in past six years By Andrew Ujifusa A recent spate of departures by prominent state schools chiefs-including John B. King in New York and Kevin S. Huffman in Tennessee-is focusing attention on a turnover rate that now rivals the chronically high churn among urban superintendents. Changes at the helm of state education agencies reflect a variety of factors, analysts say: a cycle of elections in which voters or governors in several states select new chiefs; opportunities for consulting and other jobs; and, perhaps, new and intensifying pressures on state chiefs. The list of recently appointed chief school officers, meanwhile, suggests an uptick in the value state leaders are placing on candidates with work experience in, or other strong ties to, their states, rather than those with connections to national organizations or high-profile out-of-state work. In short, the landscape for state chiefs seems to have shifted in some fashion, said Paul F. Manna, an associate professor of government at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Va., who has tracked turnover among chief state school officers. "There is more turbulence in this position nowadays than there has been in the past," Mr. Manna said. Less clear, however, is what that turnover means for critical K-12 policies in states as they rethink strategies on issues ranging from student assessment to teacher education. Tracking the Tenure According to research conducted by the Council of Chief State School Officers and Mr. Manna, the average tenure for state chiefs is about the same as the average time on the job for urban superintendents: 3.2 years. That figure comes from the Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington-based organization representing 67 large urban districts. A preliminary analysis by Mr. Manna shows that, after climbing steadily throughout much of the decade that began in 2000, the average state chief's tenure then dipped significantly, from roughly six years in 2008 to three years in 2012. From March 2012 through the week of Jan. 19, 31 states had changed state education chiefs at least once. And a few states-including Florida, Nevada, and Wyoming-changed commissioners or superintendents more than once during that period. The longest-tenured chief is Superintendent Michael P. Flanagan of Michigan, who has been at his post since May 2005 but plans to retire this coming summer. Mr. Manna's research suggests that some of the turnover in recent years is correlated with the large slate of state elections-including 36 gubernatorial elections in 2010 and again in 2014-that occurs in the midterm electoral cycle. The most dramatic spike in turnover for any one year during the past 15 years occurred in 2011, when 24 new state chiefs took over following big gop gains in the 2010 state elections. Among the seven elections for state chief that year, six saw new chiefs elected, and five of the new chiefs were Republicans. New Mexico Secretary of Education-designate Hanna Skandera said that good leaders aren't worried about "day-counting or yearcounting, or their tenure." Still, the more recent turnover has had an impact on the group that she chairs, Chiefs for Change, an affiliate of the Foundation for Excellence in Education that until recently was led by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Membership in the group, which backs test-based teacher evaluations, school choice, and online education, among other policies, dropped from nine current chiefs in early 2012 to four active chiefs at the start of this year. Among the prominent chiefs who have moved on are Tony Bennett, who resigned his Florida post in 2013, and Christopher Cerf, who left New Jersey last year. "The politics of education, I believe, have intensified and increased to the point where, in some cases, we're seeing politics trump what's in the best interest of kids," said Ms. Skandera, who was picked to lead the state education department by Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican, but has yet to be confirmed by the state Senate. Challenging Issues Superintendent Randy Dorn of Washington state, who was first elected in 2008, singled out Congress' failure to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act-and the subsequent power over states that the U.S. Department of Education has exercised through nclb waivers-as a major reason chiefs' jobs have gotten more complicated. Mr. Dorn's state lost its waiver last year. Echoing Ms. Skandera, Mr. Dorn, whose office is nonpartisan, said that as education "has become much more of a focal point for the nation," chiefs have in some cases been worn down. "I know that some of my colleagues have just PAGE 22 > No Firm Direction on Testing Set at Senate Panel's ESEA Hearing Lauren Camera The Senate education committee convened last week to take up the divisive education policy debate over whether to scrap federally mandated annual tests in the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind law. While the diverse panel of witnesses overwhelmingly recommended that the current law's annual-testing regimen be maintained, the principal architects of any future bill, including Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., didn't finalize how they intend to handle the issue legislatively. "I think whether we keep the federal tests depends upon what kind of accountability system we have," Sen. Alexander said in an interview after the hearing. "The accountability system may be more of a problem than the tests, and the state and local tests may be more of a problem than the federal tests. So they all have to be considered at once and I don't have a solution yet." A Simmering Debate The Jan. 21 hearing was the first in a series of hearings that will take on the biggest policy issues involved in overhauling nclb, the latest iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The conversation about whether students are over-tested and whether those tests are redundant or of value has been simmering for months. The current law mandates 17 annual tests: One reading and one math test each year in grades 3 through 8, and one for each subject in high school. Also, science is assessed once in elementary, middle, and high school. However, Mr. Alexander's discussion draft, which he unveiled Jan. 13, includes two testing options- one that would keep in place the existing annual system, and another that would allow states to use any type of testing schedule they please, including annual tests, portfolio 18 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 28, 2015 | exams, grade-span tests, a competency-based system, and more. Over the last few weeks, lawmakers have been scrambling to cement their position on the subject. So far whether or not to keep annual tests isn't a party-line issue, especially among Democrats. During the hearing, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking member on the education committee, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, DMass., were adamant that annual tests be required for accountability purposes if the federal government is giving states billions of dollars in education aid. "Assessments help parents and communities hold schools accountable," Ms. Murray said during the hearing. "If a school is failing students year after year, parents and communities deserve to have that information and be assured the school will get the resources it needs to improve." While Ms. Murray agreed that an update to the law should encourage states and districts to reduce redundant and low-quality tests, she said it would be irresponsible to spend billions in federal taxpayer dollars without knowing if the law is effective. Ms. Warren also drove home that theme in her remarks. Meanwhile, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., took a more tempered approach, touting a bill she introduced Jan. 20 with Rep. Suzanne BonPAGE 23 > Wade Henderson, center, addresses the Senate education committee during a Jan. 21 hearing. Mr. Henderson, the president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, supports the No Child Left Behind law's annual-testing mandate. T.J. Kirkpatrick for Education Week

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 28, 2015

Education Week - January 28, 2015
Activists Learn Art of ‘Test Refusal’
Ed. School Deans Join Forces To Bolster Teacher Preparation
N.C. District Rebounds From Ed-Tech Meltdown
Poverty Data Signal Urgency for Schools
Report Roundup
News in Brief
Chicago’s Closures Drove Most to Higher-Rated Schools
More Districts Expected to Follow Boston on Longer Days
International Study Ranks Schools on Social Stress, Equity
Blogs of the Week
No Firm Direction on Testing Set At Senate Panel’s ESEA Hearing
As Job Description Grows, So Does Churn for State Chiefs
K-12 Issues Given Short Shrift in State of the Union Address
State of the States
Blogs of the Week
SUSAN H. FUHRMAN: Measurement Alone Cannot Propel Improvement
SAMINA HADI-TABASSUM: Too Much Discipline Hurts Majority-Minority Schools
GARRISON WALTERS: Dump Management ‘Science,’ And Change Learning Attitudes
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment

Education Week - January 28, 2015